LI E) RAR.Y
U N IV ER5ITY
Of ILLI NOIS
A BRILLIANT Woman
THE HOKORABLE Mrs. HENRY CHETWYND.
"THE MARCH VIOLET," " SARA, " "LOVE IN A GERMAN VILLAGE,"
"A DUTCH COUSIN," ETC., ETC.
IN THREE VOLUMES— I.
HUTCHINSON AND CO.
25 PATERNOSTER SQUARE
I'RIMfil) AT NIMKGL•E^ (HOLLAND)
BT H. C A. THIKMK OK NIMKGUEN (HOLLAND
TALBOT HOUSK, ARL'NDKL STKEKT,
:^ VOL. I
* CHAPTER PAGE
I. THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS I
"^ 11. AUNT AND NEPHEW 12
CD III. GENERAL SURPRISE 30
rV. A WRONG START 46
CO V. HOME 62
>- VI. THE COUNTY MAP 75
^ VII. THE NEIGHBOURS 95
VIII. DIFFERENT VIEWS ON CONJUGAL FELICITY I08
IX. THE FESTIVITIES AT BURLINGTON MANOR II 9
^ X, REHEARSAL 1 36
^ XL WAS IT ALL SUCCESS? I51
"^ Xn. A PEECE OF NEWS 161
<>v. Xin. ABOUT POLITICS AND OTHER THINGS 182
<<^ XIV. CRABBROOK HALL 199
jV XV. AT THE beryls' 215
'j; XVI. A GREAT MISTAKE 23G
.-'^ XVII. FARTHER MISTAKES 243
N' XVIU. AN ACCIDENT 259
XIX. AUNT ANNE SPEAKS HER jSHND 275
A BRILLIANT WOMAN.
THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS.
Perplexity, anxiety, and a surprise she could not
conceal, chased each other alternately over the face
of a maiden lady as she read a letter she had just
She was sitting at breakfast in a delightful,
cheerfLil, sunny breakfast-room. The sunrays played
upon brilliant silver, exquisitely fine linen, and all
those small dainties which, by reason of their
minuteness and of the slender nourishment they
afford, proclaim the absence of the carnivorous
animal — man.
VOL. T. I
2 A Brilliant Woman.
Two bantam's eggs, a little lettuce, some radishes,
fruit, and various hot cakes were all arranged
within her reach. She had poured out her tea and
had then noticed one letter on the top of her other
letters, conspicuously challenging her attention, and
she read it. The tea-urn steamed iind her tea
cooled, but she sat with the utmost disregard of
both these things. She was pale, a little faded,
and elderly, but her eyes were still fine, and her
hands were white and beautifully shaped.
She let her eyes wander over the well-kept lawn,
the sunlight playing through the huge branches of
some fine cedars, and with a start turned to her
breakfast, barely touched it, and re-read her letter.
The lady. Miss Burlington, was the aunt of Mr. Cyril
Burlington, a large landed proprietor on the borders
of Worcestershire. He was a man of thirty-six and
she had brought him up entirely, been his most
loving guardian, cared for his welfare as a schoolboy,
sent him to travel in his youth, and looked after
The Unexpected happe^ts. 3
his property till he was old enough to look after
His father had been killed out hunting when he
was a little boy in petticoats, and his mother had
not long sur\'ived the loss of the husband she
idolized. From the time Cyril came of age Miss
Burlington had urged him to marr}^ which was a
great mistake, since men have a way of arranging
these matters for themselves, and very often become
adverse to anything pressed upon them.
But she was anxious to see him happily married.
She felt deeply the immense wickedness of man,
especially as set forth in the papers; and she con-
sidered that no girl in her proper senses — no very nice
girl — would refuse him. He wanted no fortune with
his wife, as he was very rich. He was well bom,
and did not care for connection. This gave his
choice much freedom and a large area.
The letter which disturbed her was not alarming.
It was unexpected, and announced his engagement
4 A Brillia7it Woman.
to a young lady; but there was something nega-
tive, an absence of the overflowing delight Miss
Burlington was romantic enough to expect on such
an occasion. There was also a postscript. Unlike
the usual letter of a man, it contained matter for
thought. "She is a very brilliant creature. " What
did this mean? That other qualities were wanting ?
She had to write, of course, at once to the darling
of her heart. She knew that she must feel differ-
ently before writing and she went out on the
lawn. Cyril was grave, somewhat sedate, as a
man is apt to be with the shadow of two graves
lying over his childhood. He was full of talent,
which was generally a surprise to people who did
not know him well, and who considered him dull
on slight acquaintance. Even upon subjects he had
thoroughly studied he was reticent of speech. Miss
Burlington, knowing how well he might have an-
swered, argued, and even convinced people, re-
proached him at times with his silence. But he laughed
The Unexpected happens, 5
off her rebukes. "There are so many people who
can talk, and who like to talk, " he would answer.
"I like silence best."
Miss Burlington was roused from vexed ques-
tions to which she could bring no quite satisfactory
answers, by the reproachful gaze of the elderly
butler, who met her as she was coming back. " I
was afraid something had happened, ma'am. You
never rang, and the tea-urn has boiled over."
Miss Burlington was annoyed. Certainly, Marsham
was making unnecessary fuss. Both footmen had
been called in; everything lifted off the table; she
was made to feel that she had given a great deal
of trouble. Marsham spared her nothing.
Then Mrs. Butt, who was short in her temper,
but such an excellent housekeeper, and so first-
rate a cook, came bristling to the door for delayed
orders ; Miss Burlington saw^ that she must at once
put herself in the right with her, or she would
have still greater discomfort to put up with.
6 A Drilliant Woman.
** Before arrang-ing about the dinner, Mrs. Butt,
I wish to tell you some news I have just received.
My nephew, Mr. Burlington, wishes it announced. "
" I was afraid you had received bad news, ma'am, '*
said Mrs. Butt, putting on her most melancholy
expression and preparing — if necessary — to go to
the very verge of tears.
** Oh, dear, no ! Not bad news. I was surprised ;
it is perhaps a little unexpected; Mr. Burlington is
going to be married. "
"Dear me, ma'am, I'm sure I wish you both joy f
Do you know the young lady, j\Iiss Burlington?"
"I have never seen her. But we can feel sure
that she is all Mr. Burhngton can wish for him,
since he has chosen her. "
" Of course, ma'am. Is she a titled lady, ma'am ? **
"No; Miss Maria Kingson. "
" Well, ma'am, though a duke's daughter isn't too
good for master, she'll may be make up for it. Am
I to tell the household or wait for further orders?"
The Unexpected happens. f
** Ygu can tell everyone. Tell Marsham first ; and
say I would have told him myself, but as the
footmen were there I could not do so. " Miss
Burlington knew that this was an excellent return
for the undue fuss Marsham had made.
Mrs. Butt said a great many sensible things, and
was inclined to be a little tearful, but at the same
time w^as really sympathetic and most deeply inter-
Difficulties of any kind were that morning arranged
with great celerity. She was dying to go and tell
Marsham, (who would be provoked at being second
and not first to hear so important an event,) and
very soon retired. Miss Burlington went again
under the cedar trees; the impending change was
a very great one for her. To uproot a lady of
over sixty from the home she has had for more than
forty years was no light thing for her. She loved the
beautiful place and the gardens with an appreciation
time had increased and not lessened; the peeps.
8 A Brilliant Womaji.
through the great lime tree avenue of the blue hills
of- Malvern in the far distance; the bustling, insigni-
ficant charming trout stream, by whose murmurs
she went to sleep, emd whose career she could
follow through the valley in the shape of a silver
thread; the beech- wood, where on hot days it was
always cool and pleasant, and on cold days always
sheltered; then the flowering shrubs and rose trees.
She trusted Cyril's wife would love these things.
Perhaps, as a "brilliant creature," she would not
care for them.
Then Miss Burlington, shocked to find herself
drifting into a feeling akin to antagonism towards
the future Mrs. Burlington, turned rapidly to the
house and dashed off a letter of warmest good
wishes and congratulations to her nephew.
She went out driving that afternoon. vShe had
long made up her mind that an old manor house,
which stood partly inside partly outside the park,
and which was considered too much in the grounds
The Unexpected happens. 9
to be let to strangers, would be a pleasant home
for her when, — and if, — Cyril married; and she
went there now. To reach it driving you had to
go down the west avenue, along a road, and then
up a lane; but there was a short cut through the
grounds if wanted. A curious doubt arose in her
mind now as to whether that shorter way would
ever be put into requisition by her new niece.
The manor house was in excellen repair. It was
a quaint pretty place, with a wide-flagged pavement
up to the door and some fine trees round it. At
the back a sunny flower garden, the abode of bees,
whose cheerful humming made an important noise
in the dead stillness now. It was all well kept up.
For jMiss Burlington's had been a wise rule, and
no part of the large property had been neglected.
When her nephew succeeded he had found order
everywhere, and an organisation so perfect that no
one particular hand was required to keep it up. It
sometimes happens that things are in excellent order
10 A Brillia7it Woman
or the reverse by reason of the presence or absence
of one man upon whom the whole machinery depends,
as a watch does upon its mainspring. But this was
not the case here.
Wandering through the garden thoughtfully,
Miss Burlington's mind arranged everything — how
and when she would come here. She felt a little
sad when she had so settled everything; and then
one of those trifles that influence us all swept regret
upon one side. Down a broad grass walk she had
stepped, and all at once she saw something she had
for many years entirely forgotten. Two old-fashioned
delicious Celestine rose bushes covered with their
exquisite bloom nodded a welcome to her; all at
once she remembered how she and her sister had
planted them, and how they had talked together of
the joy they would be to them when Cyril married,
and they two lived together here. He was marry-
ing now, and she would come here alone. Miss
Burlington's heart swelled as she thought of that
The Unexpected happens. 1 1
day. She gathered some of the roses tenderly, and
returned home with softer and kinder thoughts of
Cyril's intended marriage — softened by this remem-
brance. His wife might be very brilliant, but no
one could deprive her of the memories which she
had, and which were so sweet to her. The future
she knew nothing about, but the past was hers.
AUNT AJND NEPHEW.
The first recognition of a difference in feeling
between two people who have hitherto been one
in thought — or as nearly so as it is given to human
beings to be — gives something of a shock and a
-constraint, which is always painful, because it is
not only new, but also what has hitherto been
supposed to be impossible. Miss Burlington had
written affectionately to her nephew, but he had
missed something. She was too candid a person
not to give the impress of her mind in her letters.
When she reflected upon the great event — which
Aunt ajid Nepheio. 15
was generally all day long — she found herself
recurring to that expression which had so disturbed her.
Would Cyril have laid stress upon the brilliancy of
his affianced wife if he could have named other quality
more solid — more desirable. It is one of the comforting*
circumstances of life that when we pen a letter we
do not know how, when, and where it may be read.
Cyril Burlington read his aunt's letter in the
well-furnished library of Mr. Kingson's house. Maria
was an orphan, and had been brought up by this
uncle and his wife. ^laria was putting some finish-
ing touches to the arrangement of some flowers,
and made a very effective picture, flashing here
and there. There were picturesque surroundings —
old oak, leather, paper heavily touched with gold,
very high windows with stained glass, and one
wide frame open very high up, which permitted the
sunrays to slant down upon Maria's hair, which had
a fine tinge of ruddy gold through it, and on her
complexion, which was exquisite.
ij^ A Brilliant Woman.
She had turned back her sleeves, with their pretty-
lace ruffles, and her hands were white, and took
graceful attitudes, which even pretty hands do not
always do. vShe had a large loose apron on, which
enhanced the slenderness of her waist, and the
glowing colours of roses and orchids were all
around her. Her manner of arranging the flowers
struck him as original. He had often seen his aunt
arrange the flowers at home. She had all the
necessary vases full of water in front of her upon
a huge tray, where the flowers reposed. She put
in the flowers with some taste, and then they went
back to their established corners. But that was
methodical, even prosaic, and it was not Miss King-
son's way. She had the different vases and glasses
standing about the room where she intended them
to remain, and she moved about with a crimson or
a white rose, or stood back to see the eifect with
her head at that feminine angle which is a woman's
way of trying to see things from an impartial and
Aunt and Nephew. 15
original point of view. As she took away one,
and put in another flower, her movements were
quick if a little stately; and the effect she produced
justified the trouble she took. Yellow brought a
dim corner into prominence, tall grass broke a
harsh line, and the finest orchids reigned alone in
long Venetian glasses, with the dark oak behind
them to show them off.
But even the prettiest picture exhausts epithets
of admiration after a time ; and, having been called
upon to express it at least twenty times, Mr. Bur-
lington began to find this out, and his answers
became less satisfactory to her. Indeed, he was
thinking of other things.
!Maria looked at him for a moment or two, then
she said, quite good temperedly, " I see, flowers
bore you ; you do not care for them ; it was stupid
bringing you in here. "
He was much surprised, and raised his eyes to
hers in protest. " I have tried to show my appreciation
1 6 A Brilliant Womafi.
of the flowers, and your way of arranging them,'"
he said, with his grave smile. •* I am afraid my
eflForts have fallen short — I am not a very good
hand at expressing myself, I know."
" Oh, if it was an eifort .... Shall we ride
now ? Yes, I will go and get ready. "
She had gone before he rose. She was very
even tempered, and that is an invaluable blessing,
but Mr. Burlington had somehow been put in the
wrong and forgiven, more by her manner than by
her words, and he did not like it. He re-read his
aunt's letter. He was, of course, "in love," but
his aunt had always been a very real mother to
him, and he made up his mind that he ought to go
down and see her. Maria made another very pretty
picture on horseback. She had a well-trained horse,
and its size and make were exactly what they ought
to have been, for she was tall and sat high, which
tall women often do not do, and she sat well, and
attracted much admiration. Mr. Burlington rode
Atmt and Nephew. 17
like all country gentlemen who have ridden often
to hounds, and he gave his appearance no thought.
The two rode alone down the Row, but soon were
joined first by one and then by another till the
party developed into a cavalcade. Maria had to
answer first one and then another ; she was not
altogether sorry her lover should see that she was
in great request, though she was too well trained,
too well bred, to show off.
But, considering that she w^as engaged to Mr.
Burlington, and he saw nothing of her, he thought
that riding with her there was not quite the joy it
might have been. And the " Row " bored him
horribly, as it does all good riders who have time
^ to go elsewhere — a fact which satisfactorily accounts
for the very few men to be seen there, who can
ride at all. They went in to luncheon, Cyril more
silent than usual, Maria in brilliant spirits, and then
he told her of his plans.
She was interested, sent his aunt many kind
VOL. I. 2
1 8 A Br illicit Woviaji.
messages, advised him to make various arrangements,
and was full of charming soHcitude about his jour-
ney. He left her with the sense of her unchanging
sweetness of temper full upon him ; and he regretted
having felt so distinctly cross that morning.
It was nice of her not to have noticed it, and yet
— so unreasonable is man — he fancied it would have
been a greater proof of affection it she had done so.
On his way down to his house he naturally
thought a good deal about her, especially at first.
He was amazed to find that, though he was much
in love, his mind was capable of criticising her,
which was not what should be. A sense of her
dazzling presence, her brilliant smile, the atmosphere
that surrounded her, had thrown a glamour over
every word and action. Now that he was away from
all these things he was struck by her various indio-
syncrasies, cind some of these he was not sure that
he did admire. She evaded every argument skil-
fully, and always with a charming smile ; but she
Aunt and Nephew. 19
invariably took her own way afterwards, and, what
was more, she always got him to take her way also.
Would this be the rule of their future lives ? Was
she one of those women w^ho dominate by sheer
silent perseverance and obstinate determination. The
thought made him uncomfortable, chiefly because
he considered it ungenerous to stand in judgment
upon her when she was all unconscious of it; and
he recalled her gentleness, her winning ways, and
her affection for himself with a pang of something
like remorse. He had not been her only admirer
or the one most highly placed, judged by any
standard that he knew ; and she had chosen him.
If she did not love him heartily, what reason
could be assigned for a preference that had much
flattered him ? He was not handsome, nor brilliant,
and his intellectual gifts w^ere precisely those that
did not come to the surface in society, and would
hardly be appreciated by youth and the average
20 A Brilliant Woman.
He had great fluency in foreign tongues and a
wide acquaintance with foreign literature, but his
special talent was a power of arranging and assem-
bling facts, telling on a given point, so clearly in
his own mind that he could temperately and cle-
verly place them convincingly before others, in
terse, well-chosen words. Eloquence carries away
for a time, but there is an eloquence in w^hich
choice diction and a flow of happily chosen similes
convince for the moment, but when the charm of
the voice is gone words remain only. Cyril's some-
what untrained voice cast no glamour and bewitched
no ears, but he had the art of convincing.
What he said was the result of thought and
mature judgment; he spoke earnestly, and from
his heart, and reached the hearts of others, as an
earnest speaker usually does. Before he had disen-
tangled his somewhat bewildered ideas on the sub-
ject of his fiancee, he found himself at the station,
and met his aunt's pleasant face and smile of wel-
Atmt and Nephew. 21
come with great satisfaction. She was driving her-
self, and had one outrider, and this bespoke confi-
dence, as she was rather a timid whip and preferred
being driven, but when confidential conversation
was in prospect she disliked servants in front
or behind. Her pony had been giving trouble,
resenting the long waiting with no distractions to
speak of, and she was flushed as she welcomed
Cyril, with a full recognition of altered cirumstances
now he was an engaged man.
The first warm, hearty greeting over, the expected
confidences did not come as soon nor as fast as
might have been expected.
^liss Burlington glanced once or twice at her
nephew. Finally she said, " I am longing to know
all about your engagement, my boy."
He laughed a little, but pleasantly. " I am glad
you have broken the ice. I shall like talking to
you about it."
As he spoke came a swift recollection that loyalty
22 A Brilliant Woman.
to his intended, prevented liis touching upon any
misgiving. Misgiving ! The thought rather startled
Surely it was not so much that as a slight
feeling of discomfort, because she had in some way
disturbed his usual quiet complacency that day?
" You know without my saying it, how intensely
anxious I am for your happiness. It is, of course,
a great change and a serious matter."
" It is a very serious matter. She, Maria, is very
good and very beautiful."
"But it was not her beauty that first attracted
" Oh, no ! I do not know how it began. But
I think it wonderful she should have said yes.
She has so many others, and I am a dull fellow,
you know, and plain."
" You are not plain ; and even if you were, plain
men are never at a disadvantage."
" Ah ! but to judge fairly there must be compari-
Aunt and Nephew, 23
son; and Maria is one of the most brilliant girls I
ever saw. She puts every one somehow into the
" That is in your eyes natural enough, " said Miss
Burlington, who was in a measure consoled, but
who still missed that loverlike tone she expected.
" You lay great stress upon her brilliancy, " she
said, after a moment's silence.
"There is no other word that expresses it so
well. She is different from other girls. But I trust
you will see her soon. We hope to be married
next month: and you, dear auntie, must be there,"
he added affectionately.
" Of course, my dear. I had no idea you were
to be married so soon."
"There is nothing to wait for."
As the house w^as reached by this time, there
was no time for more. Cyril went to get ready for
dinner; but when he was alone in his room he
stood long looking out upon the fresh beauty
24 A Brilliant Woman.
of the undulating park and the deep shadows lying
on the grass under the trees. Soon he would stand
with her beside him, and all his life and her life
they would be together. He pictured her in the
house brightening it up, and adding cheerfulness to
its somewhat grave routine. Aunt Anne would
always, of course, be there, the quiet, reposeful,
central figure of his childhood, and this other figure
would bring sunshine. . . .
He started to find how quickly the time had
passed, and he dressed fast, leaving his room as
the voice of the deep-toned gong was ringing and
vibrating through the house.
He thoroughly enjoyed his dinner. The absence
of any exertion was so delightful to him. He was
conscious of the comfort given him, by being sur-
rounded by those who knew his ways. His pro-
longed absence had made him sensible of the differ-
ence between the careless service of those who
were indifferent to his likes and dislikes, and those
Aunt and Nephew. 25
whose service was affectionate, and who were not
" It is good to be at home, " he said, when his
aunt and he sat once again alone. "And you have
a knack of making everything so easy. I am
afraid I am selfish and love my home comforts too
much. I miss them when I am away."
" Loving home is not selfishness. I am sure
my successor will make your home quite as home-
like, and give you increased interest in it. She
will brighten it up for you. I think, dear, you and
I alone here are too sober."
"Your successor, auntie! Ah, I see. Yes, I
suppose my wife will sit at the head of the table."
"My boy! You do not judge me so unwise as
to remain a third with you and with her."
Cyril Burlington looked at her in genuine surprise.
" What do you mean ? What plot have you been
hatching ? "
" I have been hatching no plot. It was always
26 A Brilliant Woman.
understood. I have always arranged to liv^e at the
Manor House when you married."
"At the Manor House?"
" It is best. In your absence I have been get-
ting it ready. You have no idea how pretty and
how cosy it looks. I want you to go and see it
with me ; I know you will like it. "
" I shall not like it at all. Auntie, do you think
this necessary ? " His voice was a little uncertain.
He was deeply moved, and much distressed. Never
for one moment had this crossed his mind. And
he reflected that he ought to have known and fore-
seen it. Now, he had all at once to reconcile
himself to this further change. The place, without
his aunt's sweet, familiar face, would be very differ-
ent to him. He could not think of it as home
without her, and he said so. "It will hardly feel
like home without you. "
"Just at first it may seem strange, dearest, but
the Manor House is such a little distance; ten
Aunt and Nephe^v. 27
minutes only. I shall be at hand to meddle and in-
terfere, and give advice, and make myself generally
disagreeable, " she said, full of the coming change
to herself— the uprooting of all her habits — and
anxious to make light of it all, and to give a less
doleful tone to the whole thing.
He rose abruptly, and took up the favourite mas-
culine attitude before the fire, from which vantage
point it seems easier to say what requires an effort
" I may think you in the right, " he said, while
he still felt acutely the impending separation ; " but
I must have time to try to reconcile myself to it,
all. It is a new idea to me. When we have talked
of this place, Maria and I, we have always talked
of you and of your being here. "
" It is very sweet of her, but it is best. Why, if
I were your real mother, I should go all the same.
Young lives had better begin alone. It is wisest
and safest. "
28 A Brilliant Woman.
"And the servants?"
"I have said nothing, done nothing. It is for
you— for her to decide. "
" They must remain. "
"I advise you to decide nothing without her. It
would not be fair towards her. Write to her, and
ask her frankly what she wishes. "
" Perhaps you are right. "
" You can do so better now than at any other
time, because when I move there are one or two
who might go with me. And then you can pension
those who have been here for a great many years,
and are too old to seek other places."
Cyril Burlington began to realise that his mar-
riage would bring many changes besides those he
The evening passed happily and quietly, and
nothing more was said as he sauntered under rhe
big trees with his aunt, his cigar just kept alight
by an occasional attention to it. The wonderful
Aunt and Nephew. 29
stillness and hush of a place, isolated by its big park
from other human habitations, fell upon them both,
and when they said " Good night, " there was a
lingering tenderness in his manner which the elderly
lady felt to imply much. How much, she did
not know! For Cyril was asking himself whether
the affection he had won would make up for all
he was giving up, especially his aunt's companion-
ship. Decidedly, he was not altogether as much in
love as he had thought.
If Miss Anne Burlington was perturbed in spirit,
the acquaintances and soL-disant friends of Miss
Maria Kingson were immensely surprised. Such a
brilliant girl ! Such a dull man ! All these various
people were open-mouthed, and talked a good deal —
flatteringly to her face, not quite so flatteringly
behind her back. He was credited with a huge
fortune at one moment, and at the next believed
to have next to nothing. His place swelled to the
dimensions of a palace at one time, and dwindled
to the smallest villa all in a breath. In the absence
General Surprise. 31
of an exciting newspaper topic, the engagement
was a good deal more discussed than would have
otherwise been the case, and it lasted as a subject
of conversation quite a week. Maria was congratu-
lated, and received the congratulations with a certain
sense of triumph. The surprise expressed was, to
her, always on the score of her consent, and this
gave her importance. It implied that she had the
world to choose from, and her experience was that
this was not her case. She had been much admired,
but had not been equally loved, lacking that indefin-
able charm which impels affection, and which is
oftenest found in girls neither brilliant nor beautiful.
She was amused by all she was told, and, besides
being flattered, was excited.
" He is silent, " she answered, frankly ; " but I
am sure I can get him to talk, and I like him!"
"So I suppose," would an admiring friend rejoin,
"but that is what we all think so odd. You are
brilUant, you know; you are very brilliant We
32 A Brilliant Woman.
always fancied you would make such a wonderful
marriage ! "
"No one can call this a bad marriage!"
"Not in any sense: a fine place and — money;
but one somehow expected a Member of Pariiament,
if not a Cabinet Minister to be your fate. You are
one of the few w^omen who could have a salon,
and ... ."
"Is there any reason why Mr. Burlington should
not be a Member of Parliament?"
* None, of course. He w^ould be a very silent
" Therefore the more appreciated. Votes are
wanted more than speeches."
This answer was generally conclusive. But there
was a certain relation of hers who was a woman
of the world and not a worldly woman, who was
anxious to put the future in a more just manner
to her. It jarred not a little upon her to hear the
open way in which Maria expressed her intention
General Surprise. 33
of " managing " Mr. Burlington — of whom she her-
self had a very high opinion. " I do not think you
quite understand Mr. Burlington, my dear. His is
not a character that will brook management."
** My dear cousin ! He will know nothing about it.
I mean to make him do always and at all times
exactly what I wish without his being aware of it.
It is one of the attractions. I intend pushing him
into action — rousing his ambition — you will see. Of
course, to succeed in anything one must know and
understand everything. But I am not afraid; I do
not think the task quite beyond me." Then the
cousin said no more.
"You will have plenty to do," said a girl friend
who clung in a picturesque attitude round her. She
generally had a girl worshipper beside her, and
liked it. She was attractive to her own sex, and
was never better pleased than when they showed
their devotion very openly.
" I mean to do it, " she answered seriously. " Up
VOL. I. 3
34 ^ Brilliant Woitian,
till now I do not consider Mr. Burlington has really
lived. He has vegetated with a very old aunt in
the country. He wants life — he wants light and
coloiu" in his life. He will never be a brilliant man,
but he will be a different being in a few months."
This attitude towards her intented husband never
varied. The aunt in whose house Maria had always
lived could have explained a good deal that puzzled
the world, had she so chosen. In the history of ill-
assorted or unhappy marriages, it is always a fact
that their origin can be traced to interference on
the part of injudicious friends, certainly in nine
cases out of ten.
Mrs. Kingson's greatest wish had been to see Maria
married, and well married. It had been a disappoint-
ment to her to find that three or four seasons had
passed, and the girl so generally admired had never
had her opportunity. With a daughter of her own
(now sixteen) she wanted so much to see Maria com-
fortably disposed of, that she was pushed into active
General Surprise. 35
measures she considered justifiable. She therefore
impressed upon both, in strictest confidence, that
the other was much in love. Mr. Burlington, who
had admired Miss Kingson very much (especially
for those brilliant qualities he was conscious of
being deficient in), was much touched and im-
mensely flattered to be assured by one who must
know (?) that this brilliant being loved him, while with
Maria quite a different argument was brought forward.
"Mr. Burlington is in love with you, Maria;
but, my dear child ! do not build any hopes upon
this. He is not a marrying man; and my belief is
that he is one of the cautious men who never will
risk a refusal. I suspect he will never marry! He
admires you, and, without knowing it, is in love
with you ; but, matrimony . . . No, my child, he is
out of your reach, and out of the reach of every
" Perhaps, " said Maria, flushing. But the words
roused her ambition. To prove her aunt wrong, to
36 A Brillta7it Woman,
achieve a triumph, became an object with her. In
her softened manner, her slightly lowered voice,
the way she appealed to him, Mr. Burlington read
complete confirmation of Mrs. Kingson's confidences.
He proposed, and both were absolutely ignorant of
the pressure brought to bear upon an important,
an all-important, step involving the happiness or
misery of two lives. They were placed in a false
position by this injudicious interference, and the
few weeks of their engagement were peculiar.
Mr. Burlington did not show all the rapture Maria
had expected. But she explained it as being
characteristic of a very reserved man; and, while
she was always very charming, she seemed to Mr.
Burlington to be more intent upon exacting admiration
from him than showing the violent affection she
was supposed to have conceived for him.
The situations might sometimes have been comical
had they not been pathetic. Then when those
explanations — inevitable in such cases — had taken
General Surprise. 37
place between Mr. Burlington and Mr. Kingson,
when settlements, etc., came in question, something
had been told the lover which had appealed to all
his most generous sentiments, and a profound
compassion had increased his affection. All the
same, when Mr. Kingson openly acknowledged to
him that he was chivalric and very generous; he
knew very well that he was both; and the fact of
knowing a very mortifying secret of which Maria
knew nothing at all made him lenient towards
her, and, by appealing to the highest part of his
nature, increased his affection for his fiancee by
bringing that element of pity into play which is
akin to love.
Upon her side, with that profound belief in his
devotion and her own powers — a belief in herself
engendered by being prettier, brighter, and more
free from shyness than any of her immediate
surroundings- her vanity, fostered by the admiration
and adulation of schoolgirls, who considered her as
38 A Brilliant Wo?fian.
something peculiarly charming, Maria accepted Mr.
Burlington with the serious determination of bringing
him out — of making something of him.
"He wants," she said to herself, reflectively, " the
light touch of a woman's spirit. He is devoted to
me. It shall be my task to make a man of him ! '*
Poor Mr. Burlington!
She was a little disappointed to find that he did
not apparently appreciate her efforts; but then he
was evidently unaware of his own deficiencies and
ignorant of her accomplishments, which, she con-
sidered, surpassed those of other girls, always taking
her relations as a standard.
"Mr. Burlington, not knowing this superiority, is
not appreciative," she thought again, weighing" him
in the balance, and finding him wanting.
It will be seen that Mr. Burlington had a good
deal to learn about his future wife. Most men have.
When their plans were discussed he told her of his
aunt and of all her tender care of his youth; of the
General Surprise. 39
sorrow surrounding his home in those early days,
and of the place itself.
"Perhaps you may like to alter something," he
said, with a sigh of regret; "I cannot expect you
to like things exactly as I do."
"We shall see," she said, kindly. "But rococo
things have a charm, and I like very old people."
"My aunt is not very old."
"No? And yet she brought you up."
" She is about sixty, young and active for her age."
" I wanted to consult you about several things, "
he said, seeing his opportunity ; " and I wanted to
tell you a good deal about the place."
" I am listening with both my ears and all my
intelligence," she answered, gaily, taking up some
very fine embroidery, and applying herself to the
congenial task of laying out the lovely coloured
silks before her.
" I had hoped — I knew you would also have
40 A Brilliant Woman.
wished — that my aunt had remained with us," he
began, hoping for an expression of opinion to this
"And she has gone?"
" She is going. I feel her departure more than I
can say, and I am sure if you had met she would
have seen at once that her scruples about staying
on with us were groundless.**
"As you dislike her going, I am sorry she is
going to take that step," answered Maria, carefully
matching two shades of brown.
"Then you do not enter into my feeling about
it?" he said, with gravity.
" I quite enter into your feeling. But I think she
is wise. We agreed always to speak the truth to
each other, so I may tell you my own feeling."
"We did. But you like old people?"
"Really old people, yes. But this aunt you say
is not very old, and she might interfere, and, if I
may speak the real truth, I think it would have
General Surprise. 41
been a bore." said Maria, with much composure.
Mr. Burlington wished the truth to be rule be-
tween them, but he had not expected the truth to
be quite so brutal. There was, he thought, a want
of kind feeling in this view of the case. "Ah!"
said Maria, laughing the spontaneous laugh which
he had generally fancied so a,ttractive, but which
he did not admire at this moment, "put to the test,
the truth does not please you!"
Cyril struggled against his feeling of annoyance
and tried to speak good-temperedly. "I wish for
the truth and only the truth. I am vexed that
this should be your feeling on the subject. My aunt
is very dear to me; I should be an ungrateful
animal if it were otherwise ... I love her so much
and know her cleverness and pleasantness so well,
that the idea of her boring you or anyone else is
"But as a perpetual third, my dear good Cyril
do you not see that she would be distinctly matter
42 A Brilliant Woman.
in a wrong place? However, never mind, if speak-
ing the truth offends and irritates you so much, let
us leave it alone. " She held her soft white hand
out towards him in token of amity. " This is not
encouraging," he said, trying to shake off his vexed
and hurt impression, " and I have really many
things to consult you about."
Maria laid aside her work, and folded her hands
upon her lap. All her better feelings rose. This man
might be dull, but he was true and honest and generous,
she thought to herself. "I was wrong," she said,
with a penitence which he thought very charming.
" With you it is a matter of affection, and I have
treated it too lightly. You must forgive me !
Frankly, I do think it is better to be alone, but I
might have said it differently."
He this time kissed the extended hand. Her con-
session raised her in his opinion and in his esteem.
"Now, dear Cyril, say on! What other things
do you wish to talk over with me?"
General Surprise. 43
** About the servants. **
" Old family servants ? "
- Yes. "
"What about them?"
" Are they to stay or are they to go ? What do
you think; what do you wish?"
" It depends so much upon the light in which
they look upon your marriage. If they think me
an interloper and resent my coming into the
family. . . . An old servant who knows your ways
and the ways of the house would be a help at
first. Let things be, Cyril. When I am established
there, it will be easy to arrange these things."
This, at any rate, was pleasant.
And then Maria said something which amused
him, but which was not so pleasant: —
" I want to go abroad at first. "
♦* Abroad? "
" Yes, dear ; you must take me to Paris and other
places. Don't look so alarmed. I will be your
44 ^"i Brilliant Woman.
interpreter. You need not be frightened; you will
never be asked to try to understand or speak a
single word of any language but your own. "
Cyril could hardly keep his countenance, but the
tone in which she spoke was a little trying. Hap-
pily, amusement preponderated. After all, with so
candid a nature, it would be his own fault if they
did not pull together.
** Certainly, we can go abroad if you wish it, *
he said, hiding his disappointment ; he much wanted
to be at home again, and at that time of the year
Paris would be a desert.
" I do w^ish it. And going abroad is so good
for everyone. You will feel quite a different man
when you have been there. "
" I daresay I shall, '* he answered laughingly.
It never occurred to her to ask him whether he
had ever been abroad, and it amused him not a
little to leave her to find out this and other things.
Then they settled one or two minor points, and
General Surprise 45
went their several ways. The impression left upon
his mind was that there was a charming nature to
deal with. How sweet she had been when she
saw she had vexed him! Then her amusing way
of settling that he could know no language but his
own, and the little airs of superiority she gave
herself, came before him, and he laughed out loud.
Decidedly, he was not much in love.
A WRONG START.
Through no fault of their own, the engaged couple,
placed from the first in a false position in relation
to each other, were unlover-like, to say the least
of it. Had Mr. Burlington been in love, he might
have been hurt by Maria's indifference about details
interesting to most girls. But he accounted for
everything by the violent affection she was supposed
to have conceived for him, and he set everything
down to that affection being so sincere and supreme
as to dwarf all other things. It was nice of her
not to be exacting, and he was so terribly conscious
A Wrong Start 47
of being himself in an attitude of criticism much
oftener than he wished, that he tried hard to make
amends. It was provoking to be amused and alive
to her vanity, which was not shown as regarded her
personal appearance, but which showed itself in
many ways when questions of taste, artistic things,
music-books, or any intellectual questions were
Maria in well-chosen words gave her opinion,
with an air as if her dictum was final. " I don't
approve," or " I quite approve of it," was said and
was supposed to extinguish discussion. Her character
was an amusing study to Cyril, and it did not occur
to him that this was hardly the right way to begin
married life, and that he was acting wrongly. He
admired her very much indeed, and he thought of
her in the old home as a brilliant addition. She
would look picturesque; and — he had his aunt. It
was a great disappointment to find that she had
rheumatism and could not come to the wedding.
48 yi Brilliant Woman.
He even suggested postponing it for a few days,
and he regretted having made the suggestion imme-
But Maria was not put out. She merely passed
it over without comment, said very prettily how
sorry she was for his vexation, and gave him to
understand that the arrangements could in no way
He was more disturbed than he liked to own by
the absence of the only mother he had ever known.
On this important occasion he had naturally longed
for her presence, and had hoped to show, by in-
creased tenderness and solicitude, that his marriage
would make no difference as regarded the affection-
ate relations existing between them.
Alaria saw his annoyance, and, having asserted
herself, expressed regrets for his disappointment in
a still more charming way. She liked saying kind
things to everyone, and was on such excellent
terms with herself that she ungrudgingly endeavoured
A Wrong Start 49
to put others also on good terms with themselves.
This, indeed, was one secret of her widespread
popularity. Everyone likes to be " appreciated, "
and for the moment the appreciation was generally
sincere. Afterwards those captious people whom
nothing quite satisfies, were provoked by an appre-
ciation which was not distinctive. They liked kind
Avords which they felt were quite justifiable regarding
themselves; but they considered those same words
singularly inappropriate applied to some commonplace
acquaintance they looked down upon.
Maria had such a habit of wishing to please, that
she was quite sincere. If the atmosphere of adula-
tion had given her an exaggerated idea of her
own attributes, she was, all the same, quite willing
to pass on admiration to others, though, of course,
in a minor degree, and where she had a real
regard she was doubly anxious to please. She had
a very sincere regard for Mr. Burlington. She
thought it a triumphant proof of her superiority
VOL. I. 4
^o A Brilliant Woman.
that he should be so much in love with her, and
that he— avowedly not a marrying man — should
have proposed to her. Never were two people more
entirely in the dark about the motives of the other !
His opinion varied according to his mood. At one
moment her openly expressed indifference as to
having one bridesmaid or twelve was a proof of
superiority and of being above trifles; at another
moment it looked odd, and like — indifference.
It was not likely that Cyril Burlington should
realise that to Maria he was at present interesting to
her as means to an end — as an accident in her life,
without which she could not achieve the position
she aimed at. She acknowledged that she had a task
before her, and no light one, and poor Mr. Burlington
was in very complete ignorance of all the plans
floating in her very active brain regarding himself.
He looked forward without perhaps much enthusi-
asm to a quiet domestic life with a companion
who was distinctly amiable, even-tempered, and
A Wrong Start. 51
affectionate — who in time would share his duties,
his pleasures, or his anxieties, and whose brilliant
personality would brighten the home.
She looked forward to a dazzling career, a bril-
liant salon, her husband by her exertions an active
member of Parliament, occasionally proving in a
few well-chosen words how completely he had
mastered the burning questions of the day ; and as
very privately she had not much confidence in his
oratorical powers, she fully resolved to supply him
with all his eloquence and most of his facts.
People little knew what she would make of him ! Her
heart thrilled as she looked at the picture which her
vivid imagination depicted. She saw herself the central
figure of an admiring throng, statesmen consulting her
and hanging on her words, a gratefiil husband always
at hand, and sceptical firiends compelled to admiration.
What (compared with this remarkable picture)
signified the number of her bridesmaids or the colour
and cut of their garments?
c^2 A Brilliant Wojnan.
Finally they were married.
Cyril took the vows solemnly, and with a very
full sense of responsibility. Maria looked beautiful^
was extremely composed, and, as she had no father
or mother to part from, there was no distressing
farewell — always rather embarrassing if in public.
l^hey were getting near Paris, when she suddenly
remarked that it was stupid not to have thought
about rooms; they might find it difficult to get
what they wanted.
"Be reassured," said Cyril, laughing. " I have
got rooms, but Paris is a desert just now. August
sends every one out of the place except travellers
like ourselves. " Maria was surprised, but expressed
herself pleased by his thoughtfulness.
" You forget that you have some one to arrange
these things for you now, " he said, in a pecuHar tone.
Maria smiled, and said no more ; but she was a
little at a disadvantage, and knew it. She had
other things to learn. The hotel was charming,
A Wrong Start 53
thoroughly French, and they were welcomed with
much enthusiasm, conducted to very pretty rooms,
and before the young wife had time to collect her
ideas or air her French, she heard her husband
speaking rapidly, and fluently giving his orders,
answering innumerable questions, evidently quite at
home; very much more so than she was herself.
Maria was terribly mortified, and remembered only
too well her various speeches and offers of help in
a direction evidently so little required.
The rooms were delightful, and a very perfect
little luncheon was served at once, but Maria could
not forget her mortification. It dimmed her usual
cheerfulness. A wound to one's vanity is always
difiicult to digest, and it is all the more difficult
when it happens to be a new experience.
Cyril noticed the little cloud, and never for a
moment attributed it to the right cause. " You are
tired?" he said kindly.
" No ; not tired. Cyril, why did you let me talk ?
54 ^ Brilliant Woman,
Why did you not frankly say that you knew French
well, and had been here often?'*
" Oh, is it that ? " he said, laughing. ** I am afraid I
was amused at the time, since everyone knows French
in these days, and most men know their Paris! "
•* Everyone does not know French, " she an-
swered ; " I know many people who do not. " The
question to her was too important to be lightly
She sat silent for a moment, and then spoke
quietly but reproachfully. " I suppose you were
laughing at me all the time. It was not fair. "
** I am sorry. Was it shabby of me ? It amused
me a little, but I had forgotten it. Forget it now,
dear! I knew you would find it out for yourself,
sooner or later. "
** But you looked so bored when I spoke of
coming here. "
" What a libel ! But Paris with its theatres
closed, its best cooks absent, is as dull as London
A Wrong Start 55
in September. In the season Paris has many
attractions, and I have many friends here. I Uke
it in its holiday dress, when it has no pinafores on. "
" Ah ! " said his wife, with a long curious look
at him. Was Cyril penitent? Against this con-
clusion was a suppressed look of amusement; and
she resented this. She was not of a nature able
to put personal annoyance upon one side. She felt
somehow placed in the wrong, and anxious to
argue herself into a more comfortable frame of
mind. She pursued the subject with tenacity.
" How many more languages do you know ? "
she asked now with much gravity.
He was a little annoyed by her persistence. He
wished the subject changed, as it evidently ruffled
her; and he was sincerely anxious to make her
forget that any jar had occurred. After all, this
was such a trifle! He could not understand that
to her it was no trifle. At the outset of their
married life she had found out that she had been
56 A Brilliant Woman.
completely in error, and, to one who had been
allowed to consider herself superior in all ways,
the first descent from such a pinnacle was painful.
" I am not a great linguist, " he answered lightly ;
" of course, when you know Latin and French,
other languages are more or less easy. "
" There you are wrong, I know, " said Maria,
with a note of triumph in her voice. " Latin and
French may help with Italian; but German — they
can do you no earthly good in that direction ! "
" And yet German grammar comes much more
easily after Latin grammar, " he answered laughing.
" Oh, I am not thinking of grammar ; the great
thing is to be able to speak and to understand."
" And grammar is of no use, eh ? "
She was afraid of not holding her position. So
she asked him again. " How many languages can
you speak ? "
"If you put it in that way, I speak German
and Italian. "
A Wrong Start 57
" And you have been to Germany and Italy ? "
" Often. "
She was silent. It seemed so extraordinary to
her that she had never realised that he had been
so much abroad. She had taken into her head
from the first that he was a typical Englishman
whose public-school days had deprived him of
" Where have you been besides ? " she asked at
length ; * I am ready to believe you have been to
China — every^vhere. "
He laughed. " I have travelled a good deal, and
I regret now that I visited all the places I went
to, when I was very young — Japan, China, Russia.
My dear aunt sent me abroad every holiday, and
I liked going. I had a very clever tutor, and w^e
enjoyed it all. Looking back now I see my mistake
was giving up the University for this. I took the
crude notions of a youth everywhere with me, and
lost much. If I had been first to Oxford, and had
58 A Brilliant Woman,
gone on with a more matured mind, it would have
left more satisfactory results behind."
Maria was completely silenced for a few moments.
Cyril at length asked her what she was thinking about.
• I am thinking, " she answered, in a tone of slow
resentment, "that you have not behaved fairly or
well to me. Why did you never tell me all this?
It seems strange."
" If you will look back," he said, quietly, ** you
will see that more than once I wished to tell you
about my various exploits, and you invariably snubbed
me. I remember an instance regarding Japan. "
Maria's face grew hot. She remembered that on
one occasion she had peremptorily stopped a discussion
about a book she had liked, and, having always con-
sidered her husband as perfectly unintellectual, she
had refused to listen to his reasons for disliking the
book, which was on Japan, its manners, customs,
and position in art.
Cyril misinterpreted her silence, and said kindly.
A Wrong Start 59
"When you like, dear, you shall see my notes,
follow my wanderings, and criticise my sketches.
I used to enjoy everything at the time. Now I
am longing to be at home again, to begin my home-
life with you to brighten it all for me."
She was a little mollified by this speech. That
she had not quite forgotten, he soon had occasion
They went out and dined at an excellent restaurant,
where he had ordered the dinner beforehand.
As they left it she proposed strolling through the
Champs Elysees instead of driving, and he acquiesced.
They passed a small open-air theatre with the usual
little crowd behind it. Maria stopped, rather to his
surprise. Then she said, " Though you put me in
the wrong to-day about languages and things, you
are not always right. You said all the theatres
were shut. You see for yourself that at any rate
one is open!"
Cyril was so surprised, that words completely
6o A Brilliaut IVoman.
failed him. He could not understand the oiFence
he had been guilty of, and to explain the distinctions
between the theatres he had referred to and this,
seemed hardly worth while.
She laughed triumphantly. On another point she
considered she had equally scored. He had spoken
of the shops — of things being in pinafores. The
shops were tolerably full of those stuffs of brilliant
hues supposed to be attractive to foreign tourists
and especially made for their delectation. Maria
bought largely, and it was evident to her husband
that here again their tastes were not in accord. He
preferred quiet tints and detested anything that
rustled. His wife did not object to quiet tints, but
she liked things to look, as she expressed it, like
their money's worth, and everything she wore, as a
rule, did rustle more or less.
Very wisely, however, he left this to her, and
felt it better not to interfere. The day for their return
home was fixed, and nothing occurred again to disturb
A Wrong Start. 6i
the harmony between them. But in Cyril's mind
arose the grave reflection, that to keep his wife in
brilliant spirits, not to dim her lustre, he must never
for a moment show her that she was making a
mistake. She must be allowed to suppose herself
infallible, and in his own mind Cyril felt this condi-
tion to be impossible of fulfilment.
Occasions must — probably often would — arise when
the impossibility would be manifest. This uncom-
fortable conclusion was for the moment overshadowed
by that sense of amusement which was at present,
the result of the critical attitude of his mind regarding
her. With the great affection he had been assured
she had conceived for him, a day would probably
come when she would follow his leading; and her
self-assertion was merely the remains of a girlish
wish to be always in the position of one who knows
everything and has nothing to learn. This idea
brought him some consolation.
Miss Anne Burlington was a little puzzled by
her nephew's letters, but gathered from their cheer-
fulness that all was going well with him and the
wife he had chosen. She was more puzzled as to
what her exact line of conduct should be on the
occasion of their home-coming ; and no hint was
conveyed to her of what she was expected to do,
or what part she was to take in their reception.
Should she be there to welcome them, or had she
better not receive them ? It may be remarked that
in all matters of principle, " Aunt Anne " or " Auntie "
was extremely decided, and that in matters of con-
duct where no principle was involved she was an
extremely undecided person. She changed her mind
at least fifty times that day, and drove the servants
to despair. Luckily for everyone Marsham had
views of his own, and his views carried the day.
" You just stand there, ma'am, " he said, firmly, but
with all due respect ; " and look pleased at the young
lady. If you are not there she'll maybe fancy she
is not welcome. "
" I think your advice is good, Marsham ; not that
I want to look as if the place was mine. You do
not suppose that she will think I am trying to look
like being mistress of the house still ? "
" No, ma'am ; why should she ? But if the new
mistress is shy a bit — as no doubt she is shy — it
will look friendly; and master will miss your face
— you know that, I am sure. I think he would take
it unfriendly if you are not the first person he sees. "
This was so true that Miss Anne acted on it,
64 A Brilliant Woman.
and made up her mind to be there and to give that
smile of welcome.
All day she was busy with those final touches
which arose partly from nervousness (she always
dreaded strangers) and partly from a sincere wish
to please her nephew's wife. She moved a flower-
vase, and put fresh roses wherever she fancied
the heat of the day had dimmed their exquisite
freshness. It was a trying day for her in many
When but still a child, barely touching the bor-
derland of girlhood, she had been there, waiting for
the arrival of her sister and the new brother who
had afterwards become so much to her. She recalled
now, as she laid a loving and lingering touch
upon some of the beautiful china, how she had
helped to wash those rare vases, and carry them
from the big china-closet, — in which they had been
so carefully kept, — to deck the rooms. She sat down
to try to recover her cheerfulness, and to bring
Home. 6 c
back a spirit more in keeping with the day's hopes.
Instead of looking back, she must look forward, and
she resolutely pushed memory on one side, and
braced herself to meet the young w^ife happily.
Young Mrs. Burlington upon her side was, it may
be remarked, not at all shy. She was full of very
pleasant excitement , she was going to receive doubt-
less an ovation, which might be attributed (she
allow^ed in a great degree) to her husband's position
in the county; but while aware of this she also
intended that the ovation should become a very
enthusiastic one when she was seen. She had deter-
mined to win everybody's heart, and her dress was
carefully studied. Even Mr. Burlington, who noticed
xiress in detail very little, and who had often been
made conscious of his deficiency in this direction
by his wife, was struck by it.
Her tall figure w^as draped in diaphanous white
muslin, and a Leghorn hat a la Gainsborough was
undeniably becoming, and a dust cloak shrouded
VOL. I. 5
66 A Brilliant Woman.
her till they reached the station, when it was
Nothing was wanting to complete her satisfaction :
tenants on horseback, tenants on foot, joybells ring-
ing, triumphal arches — drooping from the heat and
looking a little sorr).^ for themselves, as triumphal
arches have a way of doing under a broiling sun —
schoolchildren, and all else. Everything was just
as it should be.
Mr. Burlington glanced at his wife — she might
be a little overwhelmed and emotional at so public
He himself felt a huskiness in his throat, and was
much impressed by the cordiality and evidence of
kindly feeling which went quite beyond his expecta-
tions; but Maria was radiant with satisfaction,
smiling and bowing right and left, and as far from
being emotional as she could well be.
This was, of course, satisfactory ; but that tiresome
capability of criticism which had tormented him
before, made him think that a little emotion would
have been more becoming, and more in keeping
with his own sentiments.
However, they drove up under the arching lime
trees to the house, where Aunt Anne, half smiles
and half tears, enfolded him in her motherly em-
brace, and where the two dozen servants were
arranged to greet their ncAv mistress.
Then Aunt Anne embraced young Mrs. Burlington,
and she confessed to herself that the word " brilliant "
exactly suited her. Maria performed her part gra-
ciously and gracefully, and turned to view the
heterogeneous crowd clustering round the front
She smiled, bowed, and was immensely cheered;
and then she took her husband and everyone else
by surprise. wShe stepped forward before her aston-
ished " protector, " and made the assembled mul-
titude a little speech, in which there was less of
the thanks for their trouble in showing' their
68 A Brilliatit Woman.
goodwill by riding and walking several miles to
welcome " the happy pair" than of kindly patronage.
Aunt Anne was so surprised that she gave a little
gasp. ]\Ir. Burlington finished off his wife's speech
by heartfelt thanks, supplemented what she had left
unsaid, and invited them all to have refreshments
before they returned home.
Certainly, young Mrs. Burlington w^as not shy!
Aunt Anne was pressed to remain and dine, but
she declined. She was tired by the long day's
many little duties, and was longing for rest, Maria
turned to her husband and said, "Pray, see your
aunt home, Cyril; you have plenty of time, and I
shall be glad to get rid of you for a little." She
nodded, flashed one of her most radiant smiles at
him, and disappeared.
When the aunt and nephew were alone, the
young wife was the one subject never mentioned.
Mr. Burlington was longing to speak of her, but
found his words might take the form almost of an
apology, and thought it best left alone, and Aunt
Anne was much too bewildered to mention her; in
her quiet, serene life, no one exactly like her had
ever crossed her path, but for that reason she could
not make up her mind about her. At any rate time
will show, she thought; and this stereot3^ped com-
fort she held to, as she talked now of one or two
changes in the house, next of the gardens, the sad
decay of a giant oak in the park, and of those
many trifles magnified into interests of importance
in the monotony of a very quiet life.
And if Mr. Burlington was disappointed at any
rate he did not show that he was so. He sat some
time with his aunt, much approved of her arrange-
^ ments, and hurried home a little late, glad that so
short a distance separated him from the comfort
and counsel she might give him.
His wife was in great good humour. "I am
sure you will like to know how thoroughly pleased
I am with my new home," she said, passing her
70 A Brilliant Woman.
arm through his as they went to dinner. " Every-
thing is so pretty, so quaint, and on such a big
scale. I never reaUsed what an important place it
was. I am charmed with it."
"It is a nice old place. But it has never been
very cheerful. I look to you, dear, to brighten it
up a bit."
" Indeed I will. People will soon call, and we
shall gather many of the best people round us.
This place has great capabilities!"
They took their places as she said this, and the
presence of Marsham and the footmen prevented
any rejoinder; but Cyril reflected that the brightness
he had alluded to had not, in his own mind, re-
ferred to other people, even of the best sort.
The dinner was good, and, though the small
table looked very small in the big dining-room,
there was still so bright a light from the westering
sun that it did not lack cheerfulness.
Cyril called his wife's attention to one or two
Hofne. 7 1
pictures — heirlooms, and of great value. Maria
looked at them very attentively. Then she gave
a little smile, and said, in French, " Very good
copies — but only copies."
Cyril laughed, though he was not particularly
pleased. " It is as well Aunt Anne did not hear
you. I assure you they are original; they have a
" ]\Iy dear Cyril, ever}^ house of any pretensions
in England has one or more pictures with histories.
I am sure I have seen the originals of these
somewhere; and as to Aunt Anne, I do trust she
won't mind my being a truthful person. It is one
of my few merits. " She finished with one of her
most brilliant smiles, as if challenging his answer.
" There is a difference in speaking the truth and
asserting what you merely believe to be the truth."
**Ah, I see it does not answer with you. I can
easily avoid giving an opinion, but it I give one,
I must say exactly what I think. "
72 A Brilliant Woman.
" In that case it would be well to inform yourself
accurately beforehand on any subject you intend to
" Well, nev^cr mind now ; we can talk of some-
thing- else, " said young Mrs. Burlington, much as
if she was giving in to a dreadfully spoiled child.
Cyril was annoyed to find how much her tone
ruffled him. Afraid of betraying annoyance, he
Maria after a little while rose, and sauntered over
to the window; then opened it, and went out into
the shrubbery. Her husband watched her graceful
figure for a moment. It shocked and distressed
him that at the very outset of their home life they
had drifted into something verging on a quarrel!
He hurried into the grounds after her. She turned
to greet him with her usual pretty smile. He drew
her hand under his arm, and they paced the walks
and explored the more distant terraces, from where
a beautiful view of the rich and lovely land lying
Home. 7 3
below the park, swept on till merged in the golden
haze of the sunset.
Cyril would have given much for a few words
to show perfect harmony with each other's thoughts ;
but he was deterred, because if he expressed regret
that there had been a little jar between them she
might accept it as an apolog}^ and he was much
too honest to offer one where none was justly
demanded from him. vSo an occasional remark re-
quiring very feA\' words by way of answer made
the sum total of their conversation that evening.
All the same, he felt the influence of the hour,
the hush and stillness which succeed the busy day,
the sleepy notes of the birds, the mysterious shadows
^ which make even jarring discords of colour blend
into harmony. He trusted she felt it too.
All at once Maria gave a little ladylike yawn.
" I think, " she said, in her softest tone, " as I am
very tired, and we are boring each other dread-
fully, I shall go in and go to bed. "
74 ^ Brilh'ant Wo7?ia7i.
She slipped her hand away from his arm, and
walked across the lawn. It was still early, and
her husband watched her as he had done before,
and saw her go into the house, and again found
himself making excuses for her. Of course she was
tired; people who show their emotions least, are
precisely those who feel them most, he said to
When he was tired of walking up and down he
also went in, and, taking one of his favourite books,
read for some time. But, altogether, this was not
quite what he had imagined his married life would
be, or the way in which his first evening at home
would be spent, when his young wife was in the
THE COUNTY MAP.
It was unfortunate (in the eyes of ^Ir. Burlington
at least) that the day which followed that of their
home-coming was one of the wettest days on re-
cord ; at least so every one said. Had the sun been
shining, the place would have looked very lovely
with the wealth of foliage, the gay flower-beds, and
the sparkle on the fountain. But the rain came
down in that hopeless, persistent way which is at
all times very aggravating. Cyril woke to the
melancholy sound of patter and drip on the con-
servatory, and dressed to the same tune, which was
76 A Brilliant Woman.
depressing-. Everything has its drawback, and the
drawback of a big conservatory tacked on to a
house is the aggressive noise of pattering rain, which
is never anything but a trial.
It was with reluctance that he went to the break-
fast-room. Anxious to do the honours of his place
well, he felt, as others have felt before him, as if
in some way he was responsible for the lack of
sunshine — as if he ought to apologise for that and
all other deficiencies. But j\Iaria was engrossed in
a pile of letters, looked up for a moment to bid
him a cheerful welcome, and did not seem to notice
that anything was wrong. She put away her let-
ters and prepared to make his tea, and was in a
very cheerful, pleasant mood. What a charm there
is in such an even temper, thought her husband,
in profound admiration. A great number of people
would be annoyed by such a damp and depressing
atmosphere by way of welcome.
"I am very sorry you ha\-e such a wet day for
The County Map. 77
your first day at home," he said, with real regret.
* I was longing to show you the place. "
"Is it raining?" she asked, looking out of the
window. " I declare it is raining, and very hard ;
not that it matters ; I want to look over things, see
the capabilities of the house, and have really a
great deal to see, to do, and to arrange."
" I am very glad you are so independent of the
weather, " he said, cordially. " And I shall like
showing you the house myself When will you
come — at once?"
"As soon as I have seen the housekeeper," she
answered, laughing. " I suppose I may finish my
He joined in her laugh, which was rather infec-
tious. Though the weather was bad outside, certainly
everything was very cheerful within this morning.
" Before seeing the house or anything else, I
want to see a map of this part of the country.
Have you got a good one?"
7 8 A Brilliant Woman.
•* Yes, in the library ; and a map of the property.
What do you particularly want to know ?"
" I want to know who are our neighbours, how
many wc have, and the various distances."
" Oh, about neighbours. . . I suppose they will
soon find you out. I am afraid I was never so-
ciable enough to please them. " He spoke with a
certain hesitation, and finished by remarking. " I
am sure they will all be kind." His wife was
struck by his tone. " I suppose they will all call.
As to being kind — is there any reason why they
should be unkind ? It is an odd \vay of putting it. "
" Is it, dear ? You see I have a great deal to
learn," he said, in a curious voice. "You must
show me how to put things. Now, pray, see Mrs.
Butt, and join me in the library afterwards."
Maria went off full of her interview. She had
a pleasant manner, and everything went smoothly.
Mrs. Butt much respected a lady who understood
offhand so much about made dishes, and Maria was
The County Map. 79
always willing to accept homage from anyone.
Then she went to the library, and studied the map
in very real earnest. She was longing to make
acquaintance with everyone, and most anxious to
begin her "career" at once. It must be frankly
stated that, if mischief arose out of the innocent
study of the county map, Mr. Burlington himself
was to blame. The masculine mind often fails to
understand that a prohibition, a slur over anything,
or a Httle mystery on any given point, serves to
concentrate the feminine mind upon that point. In
dilating upon the large possessions of the Beryls,
the Adleyboumes and others who possessed smaller
properties, he carefully abstained from pointing
out one of the nearest places, passing it over
quickly, though it actually dovetailed into the home
farm and faced an entrance to his own park.
Maria promptly noticed this, and, laying her fin-
ger on the spot, asked him whose it was, and why
he had omitted it.
8o A Brilliant Woman.
"The people who live there are not friends of
mine," he said, shortly. "I hardly think they will
call. ... If they do, you need only just return
the visit and have done with them. "
" Is there anything wrong with them ? ''
Cyril hesitated. He was honest, and was obliged
to say, " Not in anyway. . . . Not, as I suppose,
you mean it ; but they are not people you will care
to cultivate. "
" Oh, middle-class people ?"
" Not at all ; but — in short, people I should dis-
like your making friends with."
Maria said no more, but she made a mental
memorandum to find out everything about them as
soon as possible.
She did not ask their name, which her husband
thought nice of her, but she saw the property marked
"Hundred," and she intended to remember it,
dropping the subject now altogether. The maps
were rolled up, and, not without natural satisfaction,
The County Map. 8i
Cyril showed his wife over the rooms. They were
large and lofty, and the style of everything was
of the best old fashion before the Georgian era.
Decorations were carefully suited to different rooms,
and nothing could have been more charming to
anyone with good taste; panelled walls in cedar
wood in one room, beautifully embossed leather in
another, and the music-room (which w^as octagon)
had a splendid vaulted roof; the daintiest Italian
paintings adorned both walls and ceiling. Maria
was enchanted with everything, and frankly said so.
The large staircase had old oak bannisters, with
curious carvings, and there were a great many
" Let me see, " said Maria. " Ten, twelve, fourteen
big rooms! My dear Cyril! Your home — our house
— is perfect. How soon can we ask people here ? "
Cyril looked a little blank, a little surprised.
"You do not want to fill the house at once?"
he said, at length.
VOL. I. 6
82 A Brilliant Woman.
" Why not ? What is the use of having this lovely
" We might have a little quiet together first,
you and I. We have had no real quiet yet,
** We were quite alone part of every day in Paris ;
and I do think it such a mistake to grow bored
and tired of each other, and then have people in
to distract one."
"Why should we grow bored or tired of each
other?" he asked, with a certain misgiving. " I am
not likely to be bored, and I trust you will find
your happiness at home, and not want strangers to
" Oh, I never bore myself, " she answered, laugh-
ing; "it does not matter in the least. Only "
"I am simply dying to show the place to every
one. My people would not' allow me to call mine
a brilliant marriage. They were all so surprised.
The County Map. 83
Some of them would change their opinion if they
saw the place."
" You did not marry the place, as you never saw
it," said her husband gravely. Her speech jarred
dreadfully upon him.
" Of course not, dear. But you know how stupid
friends are. I dare say your people wondered at
your marrying me, simply because I was an unknown
quantity to them."
Poor Cyril reflected on drawbacks of a far more
" You see, " said Maria, " I suppose friends never see
more than the surface of things ; and as I was sup-
posed to be — well, not dull, they did not understand."
" And what was the attraction ? " Cyril asked, with
His wife stopped short, and faced him. Never
had she pleased him] more, than now by her an-
swer. "- 1 had a conviction, I knew, that you were
generous in your ideas about me, that you were
84 A Brilliant Woman.
loyal, that you were kind. I know others were not.*
He pressed her hand. Anxious to find out how
much she knew, he said, ** What were they unkind
*Oh," said Maria, shaking off her seriousness,
*I think they were jealous, perhaps."
She moved on, and a confidence between them was
lost, which might have saved many future troubles.
The rain stopped after luncheon, and, though still
very wet underfoot, it was fine enough for a drive,
and some delightful, quick-stepping cobs came round
— a new purchase.
Cyril, who was an unfortunately acute observer,
had been disturbed ever since the conclusion of his
wife's speech that forenoon, the beginning of which
had so charmed him. But the sweetness of the air
after heavy rain, the freshness and beauty of every-
thing, chased away every disagreeable idea, and it
was pleasant to drive about with so appreciative a
The County Map, 85
She was delighted with everything, with the
undulating richly-wooded grounds, the masses of
woods, the hurtling river, and the wide and fertile
The beauty of everything was soon enhanced by
the sun. Tired of sulky conduct he shone out
splendidly. Maria was radiant. She enjoyed the
drive immensely, was amusingly important, and
finally delighted her husband by proposing to call
at his aunt's and persuade her to go home
with them. He had been longing to suggest
this, but had felt that the proposal should come
She made it with such a natural grace that he was
charmed with her ; and he drove to the Manor
House with more conviction about his happiness
than ever. Aunt Anne was engaged, and they
waited in her prettily arranged drawing-room for
When she appeared she looked pale, and was
86 A Brilliaiit Woman.
to her nephew's observant eyes, not her usual self.
But his wife saw nothing. She was bent on win-
ning everyone, Aunt Anne included, and made
herself very pleasant, so pleasant that her husband
blamed himself for thinking her manner a little too
assured — too patronizing. People on delightfully
good terms with themselves are a little apt to be
patronizing, and the position of one who fills the
place of another, while that other is in sight, is
proverbially a difficult one.
All Aunt Anne's efforts at being natural, all her
best endeavours to respond to proffered affection
appeared cold and formal, contrasted with the over-
flowing good humour of the beautifully dressed
young woman beside her, who was so conscious of
having the best of it, that it appeared in all her
gestures and all her speeches.
" I know you will be glad to hear how charmed
I am with my new home," she said, radiantly,
" I really have not a fault to find, Cyril is so
The County Map. 87
modest ; he spoke so little about the place, that I
never realised that it was such a beautiful, such an
ideal home. He does himself injustice in so many
ways ; you and I must join together and draw him
out of his shell."
Aunt Anne had no answer ready, and gave a
vague smile, forgiving the insinuation because of
an affectionate glance very openly bestowed on
Cyril by the young wife.
"It is a great thing to have received a pleasant
first imprsssion," she said kindly.
" Ah ! and my first impressions always last, " said
Maria, cheerfully. " You see, I do not go through
the world with my eyes shut. You will soon
see Cyril quite a different man. I have already
startled him by assuring him I do not mean to
be shut up. I intend to draw everyone round me,
making ourselves a centre — a brilliant centre. With
such a home it becomes a duty."
She stood up, flushed by her excitement and rapid
88 A Brilliant Wo?na7i.
enunciation; handsome, and yet sending a swift
misgiving into Aunt Anne's mind. Brilliant! yes;
she was brilliant. But was she the wife for Cyril?
With her quiet saddened life, her ideas which were
old-fashioned and out of date, thinking the wife
should follow where the husband led, should find
happiness in the narrow circle of home, and fulfil
her highest aspirations in adding to her husband's
happiness. Aunt Anne heard with a pang doctrines
she believed to be fatal to home happiness.
Cyril was anxious that Aunt Anne should approve.
He was too anxious, and his anxiety led him into
^ making a mistake. " You will frighten Aunt Anne,
my dear Maria, if you talk of being a centre; and
you are doing yourself an injustice. How often have
you not longed to be out of the London whirl, and
more able to lead your own life!"
" Quite true. It is a great tax to have to be
pleasant to other people's friends, and I always
wanted to choose my own. But I must first see
The County Map. 89
my material — test the qualities, virtues, and short-
comings of my surrounding neighbours, and form
my society out of them."
Aunt Anne was dumb. Mr. Burlington tried to
turn the conversation, but in vain. Maria felt it due
to herself to be frank, and she was frank. " About
politics, dear Aunt Anne, I suppose your politics
are coloured by Cyril's ? Mine are distinctly different. "
"Indeed!" said Cyril, believing this to be a jest.
" 'Indeed' is not a nice way of answering me,"
said young Mrs. Burlington ; " but, though my political
principles are very elastic, I am quite a Radical,
and, if Cyril has fixed Conservative principles, we
shall disagree." She gave a charming smile as she
uttered this warning.
** You alarm me, " said Mr. Burlington, playfully.
" I think it such a great blessing we women are
not called upon to put our ideas before the world, "
said Anne, quietly. " Women are apt to infuse bit-
terness and narrowness into these things, and I
QO A Brtllia7it Woman.
confess I am glad T have no vote to trouble my
** Ah, my dear Aunt Anne, you are, I am afraid,
one of those people who keep womankind back,"
exclaimed Mrs. Burlington. " We must discuss this
subject at another time, when Cyril is not present.
I have many convincing arguments. I shall convert
"I doubt it," said Aunt Anne.
" We shall see. Now, will you not come and
dine with us to-night? do."
" I hope you will not think me unkind, but I
have a really bad headache. It is nice of you to
wish me to join you," she added, laying her hand
kindly on her new niece's arm. "Ah, well, another
time," and Maria bid good-bye, and rustled out of
the room with a feeling of having made a conquest.
•*! think the dear old thing rather likes me/ she
said to Cyrils as they drove oiF.
He was so astonished that he had no answer
The County Alap. 91
ready. Then, afraid of appearing captious, he said,
laughing lightly, ** I suppose she appears old
" She is old, " said his wife. * Women are old
after fifty; men are only in their prime ten years
later; and your dear aunt looks older than she
need look because she wears such old-fashioned
caps and things. That is the worst of burying
oneself in the country, and not seeing what goes
on in the world."
" I cannot imagine my dear aunt in any fashionable
garments," Cyril said, struggling with a feeling of
annoyance at hearing her so openly discussed.
" She is herself— that pretty soft cap, and her white
hair — the whole thing suits her. She has such a
lovely, calm, sweet countenance."
" But she looks old, " insisted his wife. ** Now,
in the world she would have her hair so arranged
that caps would not be necessary for years to
92 A Brilliant Woman.
" I have the bad taste to prefer caps to the
"My dear Cyril, we never talk of wigs."
" I have a country habit of calling things by
their right names."
" Yes, you are a little provincial," said his wife,
after a moment's reflection. "It is one of the
things I intend curing you of."
Her tone amused more than irritated him, and
they arrived at home with a consciousness of
different views on many other subjects besides the
first one — the pictures. Far, far more different was
the effect this consciousness had upon them
individually. Maria's spirits rose at the prospect of
so many directions in which improvement was
She so completely believed in herself, and was
so confident of her powers of mastery over every
difficulty, that it roused and excited her. She had
a little dreaded the monotony of married life and
The County Map. 93
the perpetual acquiescence from her husband that
she anticipated. It was delightful to her to find
that so much occupation and employment for her
powers was provided for her.
Mr. Burlington went to the library, took a book —
which he did not read — and felt unaccountably
depressed. In all the small differences of opinion
between his wife and himself, he recognised that
he gained nothing, and, without being able to
account for it, he was somehow invariably put in
the wrong. He had a great disadvantage in not
knowing anything about women, and he was not
in love. Had there been that glamour, it would
have helped him, but, through no fault of his own
or hers, he was starting in a false position.
He was always drifting into an attitude of criticism,
which disturbed him and he questioned himself in
vain. How could he give the answer, having no
clue? All he knew was that he was uncomfortable
and unhappy; all that even in these early days
94 ^ Brilliant Woman.
seemed to be left for him to do, was to excuse
everything he did not approve of, so long as
principle was not involved, in consideration of the
deep and devoted affection he had been distinctly
told was felt by his wife for his unworthy self.
Mrs. Burlington had plenty of time to study the
county map before the more important and distant
country neighbours came over to call; and she
realised from this leisurely manner of their coming
to welcome her and to make acquaintance that
there was not altogether that ardent enthusiasm
which she had privately expected.
In all the varied positions in life, counterbalancing
influences are often forgotten or not properly taken
into account. The most disinterested mothers might
be forgiven for having thought Mr. Burlington a
96 A Brilliajit Woman.
desirable son-in-law. He was known to be well
off, amiable, to be of good family, and to be free
from hereditary ailments. There was not a page
in his history that might not be seen without fear
of the smallest blot, through many generations, and
in some of the greater families, people knew this
was not always the case.
With so many fair and amiable girls to select
from, the county a little resented the choice of
an outsider whose history was a little vague. How-
ever, everyone had to go, and all had to smother
their private feelings, and make the best of things.
Now, there are many ways of making new acquaint-
ances. Maria's way was by being so terribly civil
as to appear patronizing. She was honestly anxious
to make a good impression, and to please ; but her
idea of pleasing was to force the admiration of
those she was confronted with, and to dazzle them
by her brilliancy, and by those polished tricks of
manner she had always found so successful. She
The Neighbours. 97
wanted first to shine, and then amiably to con-
Old Lady Bridstone and her younger husband,
Sir Harvey, to whom she was very much married,
was extremely displeased to find so young a woman
on such excellent terms with herself. Everyone,
more or less, dislikes this in a young woman, but
Lady Bridstone was accustomed herself to patronize
people, and to find that what she said or did influ-
enced other people. She was an elderly, spare,
and rather distinguished-looking person, and had a
curious habit of pausing before giving any reply
to the simplest question — a habit which gave her
words when they did come, an air of reflection
^ which they did not merit.
" We have a very good neighbourhood, Mrs.
Burlington, " she said, expansively, after the first
preliminaries were over, and she was seated on the
sofa. " You will like this neighbourhood. We are
very fortunate ; so many beautiful places within
VOL. I. 7
q8 a Brilliant Woman.
reach; so much friendliness, so many resident pro-
prietors. It is quite the best neighbourhood I know;
no fear of your being dull. "
* I am not afraid of being dull, I never am dull, "
answered Maria, laughing a little. **Is the society
literary or musical ? What are the amusements ?
Country life is a novelty to me; but I mean to
enjoy everything. "
Lady Bridstone paused a little while; then she
answered, "Tennis parties, garden parties draw
people together. I suppose you like tennis?"
" Frankly, I detest it, " said the young wife. " I
hate getting hot, and ruffling my clothes, and "
"Maria, Sir Harvey has just told me that they
propose having a garden party, and he hopes we
will go, " interrupted Mr. Burlington, quickly.
" I will go with pleasure, if you promise not to
expect me to play tennis ; I am just shocking Lady
Bridstone by announcing that I hate exertion. "
" I am afraid that our country gatherings will
The Neighbours. 99
appear very flat to you after your London gaieties, *
said Sir Harvey, who generally had the misfortune
to say something exactly opposite to his wife's
speeches, and who heard of it afterwards. " I am
afraid you will find it dull. "
" I mean to be very indulgent, and not expect
too much, " said Mrs. Burlington. " Of course, in
London one has wider experiences, and can choose
one's own society; but I am never dull, never! I
have too much to think about to be ever dull."
Lady Bridstone paused as usual, and then said,
" Perhaps you write, yourself? "
" Oh, dear no ! I can never fill half a sheet of
notepaper; even to Mr. Burlington I found my ex-
pected daily letter quite a difficulty. "
She smiled at her husband, who, however, did
not see it, and went on : "I think, in these days,
when everyone scribbles, it is quite a distinction
not to be in print. "
There was a dead silence. Then Mr Burlington
lOO A Brilliatit Woman.
asked Lady Bridstone a trifling question, and turned
But it was quite evident, even to Maria who was
a little slow in noting the effect of any of her
speeches, that she had in some way made a mistake.
When a stiff and formal farewell was being
spoken, she said, with rather a heightened colour,
* I am afraid I have offended you, Lady Bridstone ;
what is it?"
•*Oh, nothing, nothing — only as I write a good
many things myself "
"I see," said Maria; "it was very stupid of me
to say it ! " Her husband was delighted with her ;
she was showing pluck, and would surely disarm
Lady Bridstone. Unfortunately,- before a reply
could be given, she spoiled everything by adding,
very innocently, " I had not the slightest idea you
wrote anything; I never heard of it."
This, for a woman who in her part of the world
was counted rather a celebrity, was too much.
The Neighbours. loi
Her good-bye was uttered with freezing coldness,
and Maria was annoyed and mortified. It made
matters worse when her husband laughed as he had
never laughed before. "You really have a talent
for saying wrong things, " he said. " Poor Lady
Bridstone! Why on earth did you not leave well
alone? The first part of your speech was enough
to disarm anyone — then to spoil it all ! "
* I cannot help speaking the truth. "
" No one asked you to say anything. However,
it can't be helped. I am afraid we shall both be
in that poor woman's bad books for the rest of our
" I may be, but you — you have done nothing,
" Exactly. My not having told you will offend
her far more than your speech. She will lay all
the blame on my shoulders."
" Luckily your shoulders are broad. I do not
believe you care a bit."
I02 A Brilliant Woman.
" Why should I care ? " He was surprised at her
tone, which was reproachful.
** Only that I think you should care when your
wife, by a mere accident, makes herself obnoxious
to any one/
"It is too trifling a matter to worry about,** he
answered lightly, and he turned away.
To herself, not to him, Maria said that she had
made herself ridiculous in the eyes of a stranger,
and Cyril only laughed.
This was not her idea of devotion. It was not
what she had been led to expect. A man passion-
ately in love, as he had been represented to be,
should be up in arms at the idea of her being
lowered in anyone's eyes. The feeling of mortifica-
tion was new and painful to her, and, greatly to
Mr. Burlington's surprise, she showed by an increased
silence and an assumption of outraged dignity that
her resentment was lasting.
To a woman, full of self-confidence, the position
The Neighbours. 103
was embarrassing; and her husband ought to have
flattered and soothed her. Instead of that, he
had only laughed at her. She could not forgive
Just when this episode was being forgotten, Mrs.
Adleyboume and two daughters came to call.
Husband and wife had been riding, and Maria was
taking off her habit when they arrived. Cyril was
ready, and as he looked into her room to tell her
he was going down, she asked him whether this
lady had any particular gifts, so that she might avoid
" Gifts ! poor dear soul. She has none that I
know of. She is a handsome and very stupid
woman; good-natured, I believe, but I know her
very little. As her husband died many years ago
there was nothing in connection with county business
to bring us together. Come down as soon as you
Maria hurried, and made an impressive picture
I04 A Brillia7it Woman.
when she appeared upon the scene. She had some
soft white clinging stuff which was very becoming
to her face and figure, and much enhanced her
beautiful complexion. Mrs. Adleybourne was a tall
rather gaunt woman with a good many angles, but
undeniably handsome. Many years previously she
had been painted by the greatest artist of the day,
as a Madonna, with her eldest child clasped in her
arms. She still wore her hair braided in the same
way, and had never changed the cut of her garments.
Her face was placid, and she was fair, and might
have served as a model to any of the painters of
the most insipid Madonnas in the room devoted to
them in Berlin.
Her two daughters were, unfortunately, plain
likenesses of herself — unfortunately as their plain-
ness was not of the intelligent-taking kind, that
redeems roughly completed features, and so often
wins the day against regularity of feature and much
The Neighbours. 105
Never had Mrs. Burlington found conversation
more difficult! There seemed a hopeless absence
of any common ground upon which to establish or
begin acquaintance. Mrs. Adleyboume had only
been in London once for a fortnight during the
last five years, and she remarked plaintively that
she had been struck by the increase of frivolity.
Dissipation was not in her line. She did not care
for music, except that of oratorios. In short, what-
ever Maria tried to talk about fell hopelessly to the
ground. The two girls said very little, and were
so miserable at finding the contrast so great between
their old-fashioned dress and Maria's fresh and ori-
ginal toilette, that they eyed her in silence.
Driven to despair, at length she proposed, as Mrs.
Adleybourne professed a great love for flowers, to
go to the conservatory, the garden, and the hot-
houses, to show some new and very beautiful lilies
straight from Japan, All w^ent apparently well.
Maria did not know^ any botanical names, and Mrs.
io6 A Brilliant Woman.
Adleybourne discoursed rather learnedly about ferns
and grapes and parasites, orchids, etc., when her
hostess said, laughingly, " I cannot answer you,
because I am quite ignorant of these things. I
admire them. That is all. If I tried to call any-
thing by a learned botanical name, I should most
likely be in the position of some person my husband
told me of, who thought she knew ail about these
things, and called a passion flower — unknown to
her — an orchid."
There was once more an ominous silence, and
Mr. Burlington's face grew terribly red. Conver-
sation languished more than ever, and, without
returning to the drawing-room, the whole party left,
the farewells being as frigid as that of Lady Brid-
•My dear Cyril, what is it!" exclaimed Maria
breathlessly. "How have I offended this time?"
"My dear Maria," he answered, his laughing eyes
contradicting the gravity of his tone, " you are sin-
The Neighbours. 107
gularly unfortunate. And on this occasion I can
only blame myself. We cannot help it, but — the
lady who so persistently maintained that the new
flower was an orchid was — Airs. Adleyboume her-
DIFFERENT VIEWS ON CONJUGAL FELICITY.
Aunt Anne, who was unselfish, devoted, and affec-
tionate, was, perhaps because of these last two qua-
lities, especially clear-sighted where Cyril's happiness
was concerned. She gave due credit to his wife for
her even temper, her cheerfulness, her good looks,
and her wish to please. But the more she saw the
two together the less she could understand what
had attracted her nephew. She tried to believe in
an ardent affection, and she saw indulgent kindness.
Miss Burlington was romantic enough to believe in
a love which was blind. Mr. Burlington was only
Different Views on Conjugal Felicity. 109
too evidently not blind, as he constantly made kind
speeches about his wife which took the form of an
apology to his aunt's quick understanding.
Was Cyril hiding anything from her? Was he
happy? What had led to his marriage? How vain
these questions were need hardly be said, as no
satisfactory answer could possibly be given.
Weighing everything dispassionately, Miss Bur-
lington was almost equally puzzled in regard to his
wife. At first she had done her the injustice to fancy
that a good income, a certain fixed, well-defined
position, and a fine place, had been the several
attractions. But she soon saw that she was wrong.
Maria had never known any want of income, there-
' fore she did not prize it. She did not in the least
realise Cyril's position in the county, and, though
she openly admired the place as a place, she often
regretted their being a fixture, and would evidently
have preferred a nomadic life, and — London.
However, as the days passed by and she found
no A Brilliant lVo7nan.
no capricious temper, no unreasonable requirements,
nothing she most dreaded in a London young lady,
Aunt Anne began to see more to approve of in
Cyril's wife, and they insensibly drew more together.
Indeed, to understand completely a character like
that of Maria it required a person of far greater
discernment than Miss Burlington possessed, and
one accustomed to study character. Maria clung to
her own ideas with a tenacity of purpose which
would have served a great purpose well. For the
present she was content. She had made two fiascos,
she would learn to know her surroundings thorough-
ly, she must have everything clear to her ; then she
intended to fill the house and show that she had it
in her to play the part of leader. She would draw
round her conflicting parties, and handle every one
so skilfully that she would reconcile people, and be
the centre, the motive power, the wire-puller, without
a single soul being aware whose hands were guid-
ing, checking, or pushing everything into action.
Different Views on Conjugal Felicity. 1 1 1
She sat quite happily, picturing everything to
herself. She rehearsed mentally all the conversa-
tions; and, though she certainly never carried these
arguments very far, and they were vague and
suggestive, she alwa3^s gave herself the best of
Her husband was much satisfied to find that her
first idea of filling the house had so completely
subsided. Like all men who had not the habit of
society, he w^as happier alone, and his books were
his real friends. He thought it nice of his wife to
give up so cheerfully and so quickly to his washes.
This was what should be always the case ; a hus-
band, especially a husband some years older than
the wife, should be able to influence and check
wishes, probably the mere outcome of a passing
fancy. Maria was looking very well one evenmg,
when Aunt Anne had joined them at dinner. She
had a most becoming tea-gown on, an artful
combination of pale rose and white lace, and Cyril
112 A Brilliant Woman.
had said something quite complimentary, which had
pleased her. Toying with a tiny apostle spoon
and the last morsel of sugar in the bottom of her
coffee cup, Maria looked up at him, and said,
archly, " Do you remember what to-day is ? "
" Is it an anniversary ? " he asked, in some surprise.
They had not known each other a year. Therefore,
what anniversary could they venerate in common?
" We have been at home a whole month — a
whole calendar month to-day. We arrived here
on the 7 th, and here we are. To-day is the 7 th. "
" What does this solemn statement portend ? "
he asked quietly.
" It portends nothing ; but I remind you of the
fact because I promised to ask no one here for a
whole month's quiet. We were to run the risk of
boring each other for that time. *
" And you have been bored ? "
"Well, it has not been wildly amusing, has it?"
she said, with unnecessary frankness.
Different Views on Conjugal Felicity, 1 1 3
He was excessively vexed. Had they been
alone he would have felt hurt by her tone. Before
Aunt Anne he was extremely annoyed.
" You cannot contradict me, " she said, fixing
eyes all unconscious of offence on him. " You are
so excellent and so good! and, like myself, you
are truthful. I always am! It is one of my
merits ! "
"I am old-fashioned, " said Aunt Anne, in a
gentle, deprecating voice, "but I am certain that
these jests are a little wrong I know it is a jest,
but still "
"It is no jest, my dear good Aunt Anne. Any
two people thrown solely and entirely upon each
other's society must be a little dull. In time, I
know in time, I shall rouse Cyril, and give him
animation and appreciation and a taste for society;
but all things must have a beginning, and by
gathering people round us we get ideas. This
house is such a nice old house, and has endless
VOL. I. 8
H4 A Brilliant Woman.
capabilities ; we must have society around us, and
not live only for ourselves. "
There was one of the short pauses which, in very
intimate society, generally means disapproval.
Cyril spoke in rather a constrained tone. " Then
your idea of happiness is never to be alone; to be
always in a crowd?"
"It would be difficult to crowd these rooms, and
country society is so limited, " answered young Mrs.
Burlington ; " but to have people staying here — yes !"
" Already ! " said Aunt Anne ; like an unwise
woman echoing Cyril's words.
"Already! My dear Cyril, if you prefer your
library, your musty books, reports of prisons, road-
scrapers, and all these dreary matters, please do not
think my tastes are the. same. After all, what is the
objection ? If you had wanted a humdrum wife who
thought parish work interesting, and tennis parties
dissipation, why did you fall in love with me?"
Poor Cyril coloured. He sometimes lately had
Different Views on Conjugal Felicity. 1 1 5
reproached himself for having so Uttle of that pas-
sion; but he was very far from guessing that he
had been a puppet in the hands of Maria's aunt,
and had been talked into the marriage by a good
deal of judicious flattery, — the flattery of being told
that he was an object of deep interest and affection
to a very brilliant girl. He had often wondered
lately whether the passion on her side was quite
as deep as was supposed.
This seemed another proof of mistake somewhere.
Was this craving for society quite in keeping with
an ardent affection such as he had dreamed of long
ago ? He had had visions of companionship, of recip-
rocal feelings, of tastes in common, of a wife intel-
ligent enough to appreciate without being anxious
to shine. Somehow he had never quite fitted his
wife into this picture frame. She seemed to have
tastes apart from his, hopes and aspirations beyond
his, to be restlessly longing for other society, for a
wider range; and his spirit sank because each day
ii6 A Brilliant Woman.
lie felt that he did not seem to know her any better.
Surely, so speaking a countenance must belong to
a woman with a mind of real depth. How was it
that each day found him still apart from her serious
and better nature — still polite, with a feeling that in
many things they were still strangers? But as these
thoughts rushed through his mind he caught Aunt
Anne's gaze fixed upon him. She was looking sad,
and certainly compassionate.
Compassionate! All his loyalty came to his help.
It was a trifling matter, but it cost him an effort.
"There is no objection," he said, pleasantly. "Fill
the house, if you like. I, think that at your age,
and with all your varied accomplishments, you should
like to have society. We can always have a quiet
time, you and I, when you are tired of playing
He held out his hand, and his wife took it, and
pressed it warmly between both of her white hands.
She had no conception that it was an effort, but
Different Views 07i Conjugal Felicity, 1 1 7
she had dreaded a rebuff before Aunt Anne, and
her glance was full of grateful affection. Never had
he done a wiser thing. The next thing was to
make a list; and Maria had so many amusing sug-
gestions to make, and so much to say, that it took
up a good deal of time. She was so gay that the
two others were infected by it, and Aunt Anne
went home more charmed by her brightness and
her pretty ways than she had ever been. Maria
had got her own way, and was enchanted with her
victory; but she was careful to keep all look of
triumph out of her eyes, and to ask advice and
assistance as if the whole idea was as much her
husband's as her own.
After all, except that they had for so many years
dropped all sorts of hospitality, there was no reason
why the house should not be thrown open, and
Aunt Anne was not altogether sorry now, that Cyril
had accepted the idea.
In the quiet of his own study Mr. Burlington
n8 A Brilliant Woman.
saw that his own ideas had been routed, and he
could not make up his mind whether he was sorry
or — relieved. At the same time, the warm, cordial
pressure of his wife's hands gave him satisfaction.
Appreciation, even imperfect appreciation, is often
comforting. There was to be an amateur play and
THE FESTIVITIES AT BURLINGTON MANOR.
It must not be supposed that young Mrs. Burlington
had forgotten the place which her husband had ignored,
and which, consequently, had excited her curiosity.
The house of the Wyncotes, of Wyncote Hundred,
was to her the Blue Beard's closet, to which sooner
or later she fully intended to have a key. But just
now her mind was pleasantly occupied by the
arrangements for the coming festivities. She was
charmed to find her husband acquiescing in all her
proposals, and approving generally as far as he
I20 ^ A Brilliant Woman.
In a neighbourhood which counted one hunt ball
and one subscription ball as the two events of the
year, talked of prospectively for many months
beforehand, the fact that Burlington Manor was to
be thrown open in such a charming way was
delightful to the whole of that neighbourhood. It
made a great sensation. Mrs. Burlington was looked
upon with very different eyes; and every young
lady in the place worshipped her immediately. "It
is so nice of you, dear Mrs. Burlington, " was
uttered at least a hundred times a day by different
Mothers who had judged her a little severely, and
had taken exception to those matters in which she
differed from their own nestlings, began to see
merits — hitherto unperceived — in her frocks, her
laugh, her manner, and her smile. The husbands,
brothers, and sons, who had avoided giving offence
by wisely keeping their private opinions to them-
selves, w^ere now accused of being dullards. How
The Festivities at Btirlingtoii Alanor. 1 2 1
extraordinary that they could not notice her merits
for themselves. But men were so strangely blind,
so hopelessly insensible ! The tide had turned with
All this popularity and homage were pleasant to
Mrs. Burlington. She submitted very graciously to
all this demonstrative enthusiasm, and as, next to
being in love, being admired is a great beautifier,
never had she looked better or been seen to greater
At that time everything went well, and Mrs.
Burlington was delighted with the position in
which her ideas had placed her. A few tiresome
things happened. Mrs. Hutchinson, who was en-
chanted when her girl was kept to dinner and sent
home in the brougham afterwards, and who had
mentioned the circumstance carelessly to every one,
was mortified to find that the same compliment had
been paid to a girl she considered much below her
daughter's level. Every little thing she had sug-
122 A Brilliant Woman.
gested to enhance the compliment shown to her
girl applied equally to the second invitation; and
Mrs. Hutchinson, who had the courage of her
opinions, did not conceal her chagrin^ and was as
nearly rude as she dared to be when she next saw
" I had no idea you knew the Harrisons. I have
never called. They are not quite in my line."
"Daisy Harrison is a nice girl. I advise you to
cultivate her. In a very dull neighbourhood a girl
who sings is an acquisition; and one good thing
is, that in a small country town everyone is more
or less on the same level, it saves so much trouble.
When my people come, after disposing of the big
wigs I shall have to send all the others in by turn."
"I advise you not to do that, Mrs. Burlington."
"No? How would you have it done? Alpha-
betically ? "
" Some people are well born, well connected, and
might be very much offended."
The Festivities at Burlington Manor. 123
" I am afraid, " answered Mrs. Burlington with
her usual amused laugh, " that I cannot help it.
After all, what can it matter? " These small differ-
ences can affect people little. It is only in a small
provincial town that people are tenacious. Besides,
when there is no apparent social distinction, what
is one to do? One cannot know these things by
" People learn these things and the other duties
of their position — in time. " Mrs. Hutchinson spoke
frigidly ; but Mrs. Burlington had not the slightest
idea that she was offending her, and it was only
later on, when she made other discoveries, that she
made this one also.
Cyril Burlington was himself pleased that he had
given way. His wife had, probably, spoken the
truth. They had shut themselves up too much,
and there was no reason they should not, for once
in a way, fill the house and give his neighbours an
opportunity of making the acquaintance of his wife.
124 ^ Brilliant Woman.
After this excitement his wife would settle down,
and he would realise that happiness he longed for.
Visions rose before him of cosy evenings in the
library, when, with cheery fires and drawn curtains
he would share with her those books he read and
re-read with so much pleasure. She would by that
time share his enthusiasm ; and this delightful vision
of deferred hope gave him patience meanwhile.
She was passionately attached to him ; she had
chosen him, and, if he could not give her quite as
passionate an affection, he could honestly so order
his life that she should never discover that he was
himself not quite as devoted, or as much in love.
Cyril required all his patience during the next few
weeks. Not only was his house taken by storm by
carpenters and workmen, but the whole household
" also appeared demoralised. Housemaids were en-
countered where he had never seen them before.
Marsham and Mrs. Butt were evidently disapprov-
ing. His wife changed her plans ever so often.
The Festtviftes at Burlington Manor. 125
Young men he knew nothing about, were rehears-
ing love scenes all over the place. At one moment
the plays were to be pastoral and to take place in
the park. Then heavy showers changed all the tac-
tics. The billiard-room was turned topsy-turvy, and
a stage was erected there. If he remonstrated
about the noise, or the mess, or the presence of
the strangers, his wife quite good-temperedly offered
to give everything up, and by her extreme good
temper made him feel a brute — and no man likes
Things went on in the same way for some time.
Cyril did not like to see much of his aunt, because
he was thoroughly loyal to his wife, and he was
afraid that with Aunt Anne, without quite intending
it, he might betray discontent. He knew well that
words once uttered can never be recalled!
He was feeling particularly aggrieved the day
before everyone was to assemble. He had gone to
the stables to see a horse reported amiss, and the
126 A Brilliant Woman.
important factotum at the head of the stables had
made a distinct complaint, and of his wife.
" Too well-bred a servant, to say it in so many
words, Tomkins regretted in a very pointed manner
the fact of the horse being amiss at such an incon-
venient moment. " Three times this morning, Mr.
Burlington, has the brown mare been to town —
had to go."
"Three times? "
" Three times : and the road new metalled in many
places, sir, as you're aware."
"There must have been some mistake."
" There was not any mistake about his going, sir.
Mrs. Burlington sent herself"
" Once was an order, and the other times was
forgets. It's hard on the brown mare's legs, sir."
Cyril could only agree with him, but, of course,
he could not discuss his wife's " forgets, " or challenge
her orders with the serv^ants. He went straight home,
The Festivities at Burlington Manor. 127
however, determined to say a word, kindly but firmly,
about the unreasonable want of thought, and to
point out that sending a horse six miles three times
over was unjustifiable. He took a short cut to the
house by the shrubbery, and as he walked along
considerably rufiled, he heard something which ruffled
him a good deal more.
" Of course, if you are so particular, it cannot be
done," and the voice was the voice of the most
objectionable young man.
"It is not only that," said Miss Hutchinson, "but
my father and mother are so particular. The petti-
coats will be so short."
" They will be very short; " and the young man
laughed merrily. " Luckily, our hostess does not mind. "
" She is a dear ! We were so afraid that Mr. Bur-
lington would put his foot down."
"Would that make any difference? It seems to
me that she is one of the happy few who does
exactlv as she likes."
128 A Brilliant Woman,
" I don't know, but I believe if Mr. Burlington
saw and disapproved (and I have an idea he would
disapprove), Mrs. Burlington's dance and her dress
and other things would be either given up or —
"Possibly; I may say probably."
"And yet you wished me to take part? You are
"If you choose to misunderstand me" — then the
two voices died away.
Mr. Burlington had received a great shock. He
had stated from the first that he had no talent for
acting, and it had never occurred to him that he
should have taken some interest in the play, and
made himself acquainted with what was proposed
to be acted.
What had that detestable young man said ? " The
petticoats would be very short." The way all had
been said sent him hurrying in, vexed, anxious,
worried beyond description, and in a mood absolutely
The Festivities at Burlington Manor. 129
new to his wife, who had never seen him so roused,
so excited, so angry, before.
He tried to speak quietly to control his voice,
but failed. ]\Iaria, who was trying to tie a particular
knot, looked up in surprise. ^ " What is the matter ?
You look as if you had heard some bad news.
The contrast betw^een her light way of questioning
him and the deep annoyance he was smarting under
made him more angry still.
"I have heard something about this tomfoolery
that I do not like," he began, and his wife was
startled by his tone.
"Meaning our play? What have you heard?"
"I have heard that your dress is — that it will be
" Really ! And may I ask who calls it objectionable? "
"I have heard it is to be short."
"I think it will be short; certainly."
"And you do not mind! You see nothing inde-
VOL. I. Q
130 A Brilliant Woman.
corous in you (a married woman) wearing very short
petticoats before all the world?"
" The dress is in character ; I am to be a peasant,
and wear a peasant's costume."
" Yes, certainly ; and dance. What harm is there ?
You do not suppose that a Tyrolese peasant wears
a gown down to her heels? It is very absurd of
you to make all this fuss. Someone put it in your
head, probably Aunt Anne."
"Aunt Anne has nothing to do with it. But I
warn you that I will not allow you to make your-
self talked about, or wear a dress all respectable
people object to their daughters' wearing."
" All respectable people ! Name, my dear Cyril —
" Mr. and Mrs. Hutchinson. "
"Ah! they object. Did they say so?"
"No; I haven't seen them; but their daughter
said so for them."
The Festivities at Burlingto7i Majior. 131
Maria stretched her arm out and drew her blotting-
book towards her. She handed a note to her husband.
He took it and read it.
"My dear Mrs. Burlington, — My dear child is too shy to tell you
herself, so I write to say that perhaps you are not aware how
beautifully and gracefully she dances. As you may be at a loss for
someone to perform a la Letty Lind, I mention this, and once you
have seen her dance, you will allow that motherly prejudice has
not led me to say one word more than is just."
" My girl would much like to act Zick's part ; if not filled up ,
do give it to her."
Mr. Burlington stood feeling extremely helpless
and a little ashamed of himself. But he tried to
stick to his colours, and he reiterated "the dress
is short, however."
His wife did not answer him. She felt so com-
pletely in the right that she did not wish to weaken
her position by a single word.
He was much annoyed by her silence, which he
132 A Brilliant Woman.
felt to be a rebuke. Then he shifted his ground
and the brown mare's legs happily, or unhappily^
came into his mind.
" Then there is that unfortunate horse," he said,
and feeling quite sure of his ground now, he took
a firmer tone. " I must really beg, Maria, that you
will be more considerate. The horse was three
times sent into the town to fetch things. Why not
make a list and send for everything at once ? "
" Exactly what was done, and done by me, "
said Maria, her eyes sparkling with sudden indig-
"The coachman said that there was one order^
and then things were forgotten.'*
"By whom?" Her voice was peculiar; surely
she was not suppressing a laugh.
But Mrs. Burlington was trying hard not to
laugh. For the first time Cyril was making himself
ridiculous; and she could not help herself.
"My dear Cyril, the next time you bring a list
The Festivities at Burlington Manor. 133
of grievances against me, you had better find out
how much truth there is in them. I wrote a Ust;\
if the groom forgot things — if he went back for
them it was done Avithout my orders. All the
same, " she added, drawing herself up, " if I chose
to send your whole staff to fetch things for me in
my present emergency I should do it."
She looked at him with brilliant laughing eyes
as she spoke. What could her husband say ?
What could he do? He stood gravely looking at
her ; he knew so little of women that he did not
recognise that her laugh was nerv^ous. She knew
that this difference between them would end in de-
feating her or establishing her authority on a firmer
basis, and she snatched her advantage before he
had time to rally and take up his position.
"I forgive you, my dear Cyril," she said, patting
his shoulder; "but for my sake Xxy and not treat
me to this sort of scene again. I really do not
like you to *
134 ^ Brillia7it Woman.
" You do not like me to feel annoyed with you, **
he said eagerly, trying to fill up the little pause
she made, in a manner satisfactory to himself.
She arched her eyebrows in surprise. " That
never occurred to me," she said, laughing out this
time. " I was only going to say I did not like
you to look ridiculous." She turned away, took up
her ribbons, and went into her bedroom, still
laughing, though in a more suppressed way.
Cyril had been put in the wrong, but this time
it was particularly hard to bear, because he was
conscious of having made a mistake. One mistake !
It seemed to him that he did nothing but make
mistakes. How was he ever to influence his wife,
and why was it that there seemed to be such a
wide difference in principles and all else between
them ? Then, with a sudden reaction he accounted
for everything by the absence of that love which
was, he was afraid, so much more on her side
The Festivities at Burlington Manor. 135
" If I loved her passionately, everything that
irritates me now would perhaps charm me," he
thought, sadly enough; and, as he remembered
this, he resolved to be patient — only so could he
make amends for a wrong he was conscious of
having done her in marrying her.
The days went on with all the usual amount of
heartburnings, private mortifications, and petty
jealousies which are the natural outcome of an ill-
assorted company of amateur actors. But Mrs. Bur-
lington's brilliant good humour never failed her.
She seemed impervious to any remarks save those
of a flattering nature, ignored any attempt at im-
pertinence, and was evidently quite in her element.
Every difficulty arose apparently only for her to
overcome, and she certainly shone out under the
existing chaos, always serene, gay, and in very brilliant
spirits. Cyril felt that they had drifted farther apart, but,
a.11 the same, privately gave her ungrudging admiration.
She had ready answers, and was never put to a
disadvantage. She was so ignorant of the various
political relations that her. husband feared catas-
trophes, and then found that in her ignorance lay her
safety. Those people who tried to say something
unpleasant, and who talked of waste of time and
dissipation, always got the worst of it — especially
Lady Bridstone, w^ho cherished a pet grievance
dating from her very first visit.
"It is so good, so kind, so forbearing of your
dear kind husband, Mrs. Burlington, to allow all
this kind of thing! He must hate it. He looks
very unhappy ; not at all himself^ poor dear ! "
"No; he is not looking well," answered his wife
calmly; "he has had toothache for three days."
" Oh ! I thought all this hurly-burly was a worry
to him. To some people a perpetual racket is so
trying, so depressing ! "
138 A Brilliant Woman.
" I think dullness so much more depressing, and
English country life is terribly dull. It is particu-
larly dull to us — to women generally."
"I never feel dull."
" Do you not ? What amusements do you have,
" I do not consider amusements necessary. I
have interests." And Lady Bridstone looked very
imposing when she made this speech.
"Ah?" said Mrs. Burlington, negligently. "If
you have interests . . . May I know what especi-
ally interests you ? "
" Everything, more or less ; but you think country
life dull ? 1 cannot understand it. "
" I do not find it amusing. What is country
life, as a rule, here? After breakfast people order
dinner, and have five minutes interview with the
housekeeper ; read the slate ; write one or two notes ;
saunter in the flower garden, and snip the withered
heads off the rosebushes ; work a little ; look at the
paper, and wonder why one honest set of gentlemen
pick holes in each other's speeches in such a re-
markably rude w^ay, and think it necessary to show
the strength of their convictions by being extremely
irate with everyone who disagrees with them; then
lunch; perhaps a drive of several miles, to find
everyone out, and be very glad of it ; return home;
visit some poor people, have tea, perhaps ride;
dress and dine, and doze over picture-papers till
bedtime ... I call that a very dull life ! "
"You have no interest in politics; I have."
"Mercifully I have no political convictions."
" Yes. If I had I should differ entirely from my
husband, and it is quite possible that we might
" Ah ! " breathed Lady Bridstone, who thought this
a home thrust and given from malice prepense.
"Yes; we might quarrel. Now I do not mean
to deny that a quarrel might be very amusing,
140 A Brilliant: Wo?/mn.
much more amusing than monotonous agreement,
but it is not very nice. You see I am afraid I
was born without enthusiasm."
" I should be grieved to think you mean what
you say," and Lady Bridstone shook her elderly
head till her front, which had seen better days, got
slightly to one side. "Do you mean to say that
if your husband stood for the county you would
not be interested — that you would not endeavour
to help him? Women can do so much in these
"They can also do mfschief," answered Maria,
with sudden gravity, looking full in the old lady's
Poor Lady Bridstone reddened. " I was talking
about political influence. I wished to put before
you in plain English, that you ought to feel an interest
in your husband's election — in his success."
"But I should feel interested,'' answered Maria,
with great animation. " It would be my one chance
Rehearsal. 1 4 1
of being again in London, and I adore London."
" Ah ! " again said Lady Bridstone. " I am not
sure that I think that a very exalted motive. No
interest in politics, no interest in the history of our
times. A mere frivolous existence, a life of plea-
" How can any rational woman be really interested
in the petty squabbles of the House of Commons ? "
" But eloquence, my dear Mrs. Burlington ! "
"Eloquence? Yes; but when a good speech is
made I am always on that side of the question; I
am so easily persuaded. But, as a rule, it is not
eloquence. How can I feel interested in the usual
sort of thing? The country is always said to be
going to the dogs, and, somehow, never gets there ;
one set of men are praised for going to war, and
the next year are blamed for the same thing. No;
the House of Commons is an excellent institution ;
it is a safety-valve for all the bores, and there are
so many! As in a hive drones exist, so in society
142 A Brilliant Woman.
bores are an established fact. If they had no place
to prose in, how terrible it would be for the wives ! "
Lady Bridstone began to have a dim conviction
that trying to argue with a young woman who
was so utterly unlike any other young woman she
had encountered, was not a success.
She turned the conversation to the play, and,
Mr. Burlington coming in just then, she tried to
show her annoyance with Mrs. Burlington by
attempting to ignore her — a proceeding he saw
through at once, and instantly defeated. Maria
instinctively recognised his loyalty, and a sincere, if
ephemeral, feeling of gratitude made her cordial to him.
Most unfortunately, her anxiety to rouse and
startle Lady Bridstone made her say, " You are
coming to see the play, I hope. Mr. Burlington
is trembling a little about the verdict respecting
my dress, or rather my petticoats. He is afraid
they will be too short. Do you object to very
short petticoats, dear Lady Bridstone ? "
" I am not young enough to understand quizzing, "
said the old lady, immensely offended, and rising
from her chair, and shaking her dress out as if
unseen earwigs or other obnoxious insects were
hanging to it.
" I am not quizzing. " Maria looked at her hus-
band, and saw that he was with difficulty suppres-
sing annoyance. Still true to his wife, he said
lightly, "There is some doubt as to the length of
petticoats in a Tyrolese costume. My wife is afraid
we may all be taken by surprise, and she is
anxious to do nothing to cause any sort of disap-
Lady Bridstone looked from one to the other.
She would like to have said something stinging to
Mrs. Burlington, who had managed to ruffle her a
great deal; but, as Mr. Burlington upheld her and
stood by her, she was checked. By sympathetic
sighs and an ardent pressure of her withered hand,
she endeavoured silently to convey her sorrow for
144 ^^ Brilliant Woman.
his being so ill-matched, and her strong disapproval
of his wife to her husband. When she was driving
away she was conscious of having failed to
disturb the serenity of either, and in her heart of
hearts she admired that husband's loyalty.
But she went about everywhere, shaking her
head, and pitying him so much and looking so
sagacious that Lord Burleigh's momentous shake
of the head in " The Critic " was nothing to it.
Mrs. Burlington had made one dangerous enemy.
Cyril was so vexed that he was afraid of speaking
just then to his wife. She was in a horribly false
position. She did not know . . . and he felt that
this would always be the case.
How foolish he had been in thinking that he
could always influence her without explanations!
And if he gave those explanations would it not
destroy her spontaneous brightness, which was so
distinctive a trait ; and if her brightness went what
would remain to her ? He was moodily wandering
Rehearsal. 1 45
near the house when he was suddenly confronted by
his aunt, and while he would not have sought her
just then, he acknowledged that her presence was
more grateful and delightful to him than almost
ever before. In her long life Aunt Anne had
never been known to take an unkind or unchari-
table view of any one. Cyril was not afraid of
himself. But, as he had not sought her, he was
more at ease, and felt that his unacknowledged
and almost vague discontent about his wife's pro-
ceedings need not be entered into.
During the last few weeks, busy and taken up
as she had been with the excitement of all the
coming play, Maria had never been too busy or
too engrossed to go and see Aunt Anne, and in-
deed the liking between the two was increasing.
Maria felt the charm of one whose ease of manner
and cordial kindness made effort unnecessary; and,
though she had occasional fits of pique and momen-
tary spasms of jealousy if she fancied Aunt Anne's
VOL. I. 10
146 A Brilliant Woman.
influence outweighed hers, she was beginning to
lean upon the elder woman's opinion, and to like
nothing better than a talk with her. On her side
Aunt Anne, who had private and secret reasons of
her own for dreading the marriage, was soon won
by the frankness and absolute straightforwardness
of her new niece. She was so perfectly outspoken
that, though the fearlessness might be the outcome
of undue confidence in herself, it was a quality to
be prized, and the brightness she brought with her
was something new and refreshing to one who had
suffered so long from the depressing effect of be-
reavement and solitude, and the absence of any
close womanly friend to whom she might speak of
those minor matters too small to be worthy of a
man's attention. When Aunt Anne and Cyril met,
therefore, just at this juncture, the Fates could
hardly have done Maria a better turn.
" I was just coming up to see the dresses. Maria
wished it "
Rehearsal. 1 47
This recalled a trouble, " I am sure I don't know
what room you can see them in. The whole house
is in confusion. There is not a place one can sit
down in quietly. "
" Ah, well, in three days now all will be over.
I daresay being behind the scenes so much, you
have grown tired of it all. Everything will be fresh
and startling and new to me. I daresay you know
all by heart."
" I hope there will be nothing startling, " said Cy-
ril. His tone was not very cheerful, and she was
quick to see it.
"I see you are a little bored. Maria was afraid
you were bored. My dear Cyril, how nice she is!
It seems that some remarks about the dresses made
her anxious for my opinion. I had a note from her
begging me to come and see, and judge. "
Cyril felt much ashamed. So while he had been
disturbing himself his wife had been prudence itself.
His answer was much more cheerful.
148 A Brilliajit Woman.
* I acknowledge that I am cross. " he said. " I
will say ' bored ' if you like it. It certainly sounds
better. There seems to me such an absurd amount
of rehearsing. I can go nowhere without being
made to feel I am in the way, and the people who
spend their days here are not to my taste. There
is Mr. Eccles. Have you ever met him or heard
" Never. Is he objectionable ? "
" He is worse, if there is anything worse. "...
" I am sorry, dear. I suppose, to do justice to
the play, outsiders had to be allowed to take part.
I am sure Maria is sorry also. What does she say
about him? I suppose you told her you objected
to him ? It was probably too late. "
Cyril was silent. This was exactly what he had
not done. Indeed, his grievance was that his wife
had not found out for herself that he objected so
very much to this man — and other things.
He had not spoken, because he was hurt, and
Rehearsal, 1 49
also he dreaded that way Maria had of laughing oiF
any serious cause of complaint. It irritated him,
and somehow put him in the wrong; it made him
look as though he was making a fuss about no-
Looking up, however, he saw that his silence
was giving Aunt Anne a false impression, and his
sense of right impelled him to speak.
" I have said nothing , . . . I thought she would
see for herself. "
" I would tell her, " said Aunt Anne, gently.
**I think, my dear Cyril, that in many ways your
wife has been unfairly used. I have no right to
interfere; no right, perhaps, to express an opinion;
but I feel that a mistake has been made, especially
with an open character like hers. Not by you, but
by those who brought her up. "
" I think so, too, " answered Cyril, heartily ; " but
I cannot see my way to altering things now; and
I hope that there will be no occasion."
150 A Brilliant Woman,
They reached the steps leading into the library
as he finished speaking, but his moodiness was
gone. Nothing could have laid his fears at rest so
much as that simple act told him by his aunt. His
wife had asked her to judge about the propriety of
her costume; and if she approved, what mattered
it to him who disapproved? He would set her
judgment against that of all the world.
WAS IT ALL SUCCESS?
The eventful evening arrived. Dinner was advanced
half an hour, in order that visitors and servants
might have time to digest and prepare; the actors
and actresses dined together apart at an earlier hour.
It must be confessed that Mrs. Burlington's ab-
sence made ever)^hing much less lively than usual.
Her brightness and charm of manner were missed
by her husband most, and by the others without
their accounting for it. There are few events in life
allowed to interfere with so important a daily occur-
rence as a man's dinner, and that on this occasion
152 A Brilliaiit Wo?nan.
this sacred meal was over some ten minutes earlier
than usual was due more to the fact of Mrs. Bur-
lington's absence than to any neglect of Mrs. Butt's
There was much less conversation, because there
was no one to originate things. Aunt Anne was at
the head of the table once more, but her gentle
manner was really a check upon the conversation
of others. She had a pleading, low pitched voice,
which was subduing in its influence. Other voices
sounded almost aggressively loud contrasted with
her extreme quietness, and, though a low, sweet
voice is a " very excellent thing in woman, " if all
remarks reach a near neighbour only, general con-
versation is apt to languish. Cyril noticed this, and
found the dinner longer and duller, and made a
mental appreciative remark about his wife's way of
drawing people out.
No one was more eager than he was for the play
to begin and — end; and when all was ready, and
Was it all Success? 153
the overture was in progress, he was surprised by
his own agitation. The play was, after all, pastoral.
The evening was superb — still, calm, and warm.
The play had been written for Mrs. Burlington by
a great man ; and nothing prettier could be conceived
than the opening scenes — the many richly draped
figures gliding through the trees; the flash of co-
lour; the whole mise en scene was excellent.
The acting was very poor, with one exception —
Mrs. Burlington. Her acting was more that of an
accomplished professional than the performance of
an amateur. Accustomed to see the best acting,
and having taken part in private theatricals as a girl,
she was quite at home, and won rounds of applause
from all the disinterested spectators. She was sup-
posed to be a Tyrolese peasant in the days when
Austria was fighting that gallant little nation, and
to be loved at the same moment by an Austrian
soldier and a Tyrolese musician. To save her family
from endless persecution and annoyance, she tries
154 -^ Brilliant Woman,
to keep the soldier in good humour, and thus makes
her lover jealous, and the famous dance was to
please the Austrian and keep him out of the way
while her father and lover were carrying out a secret
A well-made boarding covered with tightly
stretched cloth had been placed on the grass for the
actors to be secure against evening dews and damp
arising. Mrs. Burlington's beautiful figure, her pos-
tures, and her dancing were all in turn admired
with ungrudging enthusiasm. Even Cyril, prepared
not wholly to approve, was carried away by the
influence of her grace and the refined charm of all
her gestures. Coloured lights were suddenly thrown
over everything, and the success was complete.
Then Cyril suddenly had a shock. Old General
Labbridare said to him, with enthusiasm, " You are,
possibly, too young to have seen her ; but, by Jove,
sir, your wife, in figure, face, and action, is the
exact image of that poor girl, Donella, who was
Was it all Success? 155
burned, you know. I never in all my life saw
such a likeness."
* I suppose you mean that for a great compliment,"
said poor Cyril, with an attempt at a smile. * I
suppose that was her professional name."
*I mean it as the greatest compliment. As to
the name, poor Donella was an Irish girl ; a nobody,
a girl called Rourke, I think. But she had harder
lines than most girls, poor little soul! *
Cyril wished and did not dare to ask more.
All was over. There was a confused rush of
compliments and thanks — supper, where everyone
appeared in their costumes, and where Mrs. Bur-
lington, in brilliant spirits, was the life of the whole
party. Lady Bridstone, who had been meditating
how she could say something sarcastic all the even-
ing, said clumsily : " Your acting is too good for
an amateur, Mrs. Burlington. It is quite a pity
you are not on the stage. You act almost as if
you had been trained."
156 A Brilliant Woman.
Cyril was near her, and was delighted when his
wife took the remark in excellent part, and said
quietly: "I hardly expected such generous, such
ungrudging praise from you, Lady Bridstone. You
are very kind."
The malicious old lady looked keenly at her,
but could see only an open, candid face, and a
"She must be a born actress," she muttered to
herself as she went off to the carriage. " I don't
believe in a woman like that ! "
Cyril went upstairs at length, expecting to find
his wife tired out, and either undressing or un-
dressed. But she was neither. She was standing,
leaning against the open window. All the candles
were lit in her room, and her figure looked radiant
with all the gold embroidery, and the jewels about
her throat. Her eyes were sparkling with indigna-
tion. "Cyril," she began in a direct tone, "I
have been insulted to-night. Is it my fault ? Did
Was it all Success? 157
you notice a very odious man called Eccles here,
a man some one suggested could act, and who has
been rehearsing here these last few weeks."
" He seized my Hand, and began to make love
to me. He — kissed my hand."
" He shall never enter these doors again, " said
"Just what I told him," she answered. "I said
that the worst part of getting up a play in the
country was that one never could secure gentlemen
for all the parts. " Tears were standing in her eyes.
"Why did you not tell me the man was what he
is, Cyril? Did you not know it?"
"I thought that you knew it also."
" Oh, Cyril ! " She was keenly, desperately, hurt
"Did you give me credit for so little sense of
right, so little anxiety for my own, for your, approval
as to suppose that if I had guessed, if I had known —
I should have allowed him to stay to act with us,
158 A Brilliant Woman.
to be day after day thrown into our intimate society?"
Words failed her. She was cruelly mortified. This,
then, was what he thought of her. And all his
love for her had not taught him to read her
At such a moment she had wanted him to soothe
and comfort her. She was cruelly distressed. She
had gone to him, and he received her so. Did he
blame her? Did he suppose this insult was owing
to some indiscretion on her part? This thought was
so maddening to her that she rushed past him,
intending to go out of the room till he had left it.
But he stopped her. "Forgive me," he said, "if I
have vexed you. But you have not noticed how
the presence of that little cad annoyed me. I hated
seeing him with you, and you failed to see it. How
was I to know that you were not excusing him
and putting up with him because of some latent
talent which my dulness could not perceive? I
own I thought you put the success of the play before
Was it all Success? 159
everything else — that you set it above every con-
"And you do not see that this is what hurts
me," she said in a low voice. "To be so judged;
to be thought capable " They were nearer to
each other at that moment than they had yet been.
Then Maria asked him suddenly one question: " Why
did you look so ill-pleased when old Lady Bridstone
said flattering things?"
" Because she was trying to be impertinent. She
meant to imply — She wished to insinuate that your
dancing was too good — more like that of a profes-
sional than like that of a lady."
Maria coloured hotly. " Had I only knowTi ! "
" Had you known you would not have made the
graceful little speech you did. You would not have
made so effective an answer. Nothing is more
mortifying than to take pains to say a spiteful thing
and to see it fall w4de of the mark ! "
i6o A Brilliant Woman.
Maria was a little thoughtful. Then, facing him,
she said, looking straight into his eyes, " Why were
you in such a fever about my dress and my danc-
ing? You disliked it, I saw. Why was it? Why
should I not do what so many people do? What
is the difference between me and others?"
Cyril grew hot and red. He was a bad hand at
concealing his feelings, and yet a direct answer
was impoSvSible to him. His wife watched him
anxiously. Then her countenance changed. Pride
and determination gained a victory. Before he could
again stop her she was gone, and this opportunity
was lost, like many other opportunities. It had
passed for ever!
A PIECE OF NEWS.
When Mrs. Burlington left her room and her
husband standing there, she was more nearly dis-
liking him than she had ever been of -hating
any one in all her life! Instinctively she felt that
at that moment she was offering him an oppor-
tunity, and that if he availed himself of it they
would for ever after be more to eaeh other than
they had yet been. Wounded by an undeserved
insult, she had gone to him in so softened a mood
that she was prepared to lay down her arms, and
be in love with what she considered the dulness of
VOL. I. 11
1 62 A Brilliant Woman.
the country and all else, had he answered her
confidence and given her his own.
For the first time it came home to her that her
power over him was not all she had imagined it
to be. vShe had accepted cheerfully the idea that
he adored her, and that he was content with what
she could give him in return. Her ambitious
thoughts, her aspirations, satisfied her; as long as
he was there to countenance and support her in
the background, his figure never came very pro-
minently before her. But something now made
her ask herself whether the position was exactly
what she supposed it to be.
He never showed her any signs of the great
affection she credited him with. He was always
kind enough, but not enthusiastic; and if he had
not been in love, why had he married her? Had
she worn out his patience and killed his passion by
showing so little regard for him?
He supported her at all times before the world,
A Piece of News, 163
and he was loyal; but he did not do justice to her
powers; that was where he defeated her. She
knew by instinct that he judged her dispassionately
if not critically, and was this consistent with an
overmastering passion? She resolved that in some
way she would prove her ability and her capabilities,
and Ke would be obliged to confess that he had
Poor Mr. Burlington! He knew very little
indeed of his wife's projects, and, had he known,
what could he have done ? For if a woman believes
herself so capable, if she thinks she can dominate
everyone, how is a man, tongue-tied by generosity,
to undeceive her?
As regarded himself, he was so circumstanced
that he could not be perfectly frank with her.
There was one confidence that for her own sake
he could never give her, and another that for his
own he thought it wiser to withhold.
Mrs. Kingson had much to answer for!
164 A Brilliant Woman.
As far as quiet and domestic happiness went,
Mr. Burlington found that the recent excitement
had apparently merely whetted his wife's appetite
for gaiety. Each day some fresh neighbour was
openly pressed to stay or dine. Indeed, Mrs.
Burlington's object seemed to be never to have to
encounter a solitary evening with her husband.
Even the curate, a long-suffering person of very
gaunt appearance and decidedly lugubrious man-
ner — even he was pronounced in Mr. Burlington's
hearing "better than nothing."*
" Are we never to be alone again ?" he asked,
with some natural irritation, when, for the fifth time
in one fortnight, the long face of the Rev. Aubrey
Tucker and his long figure were seen arriving.
" It is much better than boring each other. You
know you do not appreciate my small talk, and
lately, in the middle of quite an amusing story,
you proposed teaching me chess."
** I did not think the story very amusing. Your
A Piece of News. 165
way of telling it was — I thought it — ill-natured."
"Ill-natured! My dear Cyril, if every amusing
story was sifted, how little would be left. Very
often the only merit lies in the little embroideries
custom sanctions . . . Mr. Tucker, you arrive at
such an opportune moment ! My husband and I are
theorising about telling amusing stories. Often their
only merit lies in the way they are told."
" I am not precisely sure what you mean by
stories. I take for granted you do not refer to facts ;
facts should . . . hem . . . remain facts," said Mr.
Mr. Burlington smiled sarcastically, and his wife
understood the meaning of that smile. It was meant,
she conceived, to be a sort of two-edged weapon,
to say pointedly to her, first that this ponderous,
dull, unappreciative man was the man whose society
was to prevent a tete-a-tete with him, and also
to remind her that, even judging by this standard,
facts altered and embroidered ceased to be facts.
i66 A Brilliant Woman.
She was sensible by this time that a wide diiFer-
ence existed between her husband's standard of
truth and her own.
But this knowledge did not disturb her or make
her in the least unhappy. She allowed it, indeed,
more as an apology for him than as an excuse for
herself It stood to reason that a man totally want-
ing in imagination must look upon everything
with different eyes, and be blind to all except what
was straight in front of him ; and she piqued her-
self upon her power of seeing everything with all
' the side-lights, possibilities, and probabilities they
were capable of having.
If things as she put them had not exactly
occurred, there was no reason why they should not
occur; and because she had not seen them, was
that any reason why they should not exist, and
have been seen by other people?
" I am not ill-natured, and I am not mischievous, "
she would say to her husband ; " but if I see life
A Piece of News. 167
amusingly I am obliged to depict it amusingly. It
is not in me to be prosaic."
His grave disapproval served no purpose. She
had all along made up her mind that he was in-
ferior in intellect, 'and she had one word which
always served her — " unappreciative. "
Mr. Tucker was a good, honest, worthy soul,
whose greatest weakness was an anxiety to be
known by his baptismal name of Aubrey, as
a sort of set-ofF against that of Tucker, which
he considered plebeian. He had been christened
Aubrey after a distant connection, and he made
the most of the fortunate circumstance. He put
" The Rev. J. Aubrey-Tucker" upon his cards, and
trusted people might give him the benefit of the
first name, and that in time the ** Tucker" might
be altogether dropped.
All men have their weaknesses, even good men,
and this shade of vulgarity brought its own punish-
ment, and caused him to be well laughed at. Un-
1 68 A Brilliant Woman.
fortunately, also, it set a good many people against
him, and neutralised good he might have done.
His presence on this particular evening annoyed
Mr. Burlington even more than usual, and he grew
more silent and more reserved each moment.
All at once, however, Mr. Tucker brightened up.
He had some news to tell — something to impart
which would give him consequence, however
" I heard some rather important news this evening
before leaving home," he began in his slow, rather
Mrs. Burlington looked up with interest. • Pray
tell us, Mr. Tucker. News is always very welcome. "
" You have heard of the Wyncotes of Wyncote
Hundred ? * He looked at her for a moment, and
added, turning to his host, " You know them, of
course; charming, delightful man; aristocratic son;
of course, not being of our faith, I do not know
them ; that is, only by hearsay. Then that sad story
A Piece of News. 1 6g
of the brother who murdered a man and died before
he could be tried makes them interesting.
Mrs. Burlington listened with immense interest to
this confused account of neighbours she longed to
know about. She wished above everything to hear
something which would explain Cyril's antagonism.
" What about them ? " asked her husband curtly,
almost rudely, she thought.
" They arrived — that is, the son arrived yesterday. *
"Well, what of that?" asked Mr. Burlington, the
subject so palpably displeasing to him that the curate
looked up in surprise.
Before he had time to make any rejoinder, Mrs.
Burlington said, " Of course, you will call, Cyril ?
Our nearest neighbours, you know ? "
" I cannot see why the accident of having adjoining
properties necessitates making acquaintance with
people I disapprove of. "
Mrs. Burlington was very much surprised.
Then it occurred to her that perhaps something
170 A Brilliant Woman.
about his family, that he did not wish to have known,
made him determine she should not make the
acquaintance. More to startle him than to annoy him,
she said laughing, ** You see Mr. Tucker, in all
families there is a skeleton hidden somewhere; it
seems to me that Wyncote Hundred holds a secret
of some kind and a skeleton. "
Mr, Tucker was quite certain that she had said
something witty, and answered, "That settles the
** Which point do you consider settled ? " asked
Mrs. Burlington, laughing. " You have spoken like
an oracle, and have carefully avoided answering to
the point. "
* I am afraid I am not a judge. If I marry,
which is not likely, I suppose I shall know all
these little social things and about skeletons. At
present" He looked so sincerely unhappy that
Mr. Burlington, not without a shade of triumph in
his tone, turned the conversation, and the iniquitous
A Piece of News. 1 7 1
opposition of a refractory churchwarden kept the
guest in full talk till Mrs. Burlington slipped away.
Her husband had expected that the advent of the
Wyncotes, and a discussion about them would have
begun as soon as they were alone together; but,
much to his relief, nothing was said. Apparently,
her interest in them had expired, and he was in
expressibly relieved and thankful.
He knew little of womankind and less of his
wife. From the moment Maria knew they were
there, she was resolved upon making their acquaint-
ance, and her silence was caused by a conviction
that a discussion would bring on an absolute pro-
hibition against going to see these people, or making
their acquaintance; and though she was prepared
to do a great many independent things, she was
not quite prepared to do anything in the very face
of a direct prohibition.
Within a few days came exciting political news.
There was to be a dissolution. The news took
172 A Brilliant Woman,
everyone by surprise, and Mrs. Burlington heard so
many different opinions, and noticed that such a
keen interest was taken in the coming elections,
that she began to see that political life was more
interesting than she had imagined. Then, in the
very thick of it all, came a requisition to her hus-
band to contest their division of the county.
Mr. Burlington, who had his own convictions,
thought seriously enough over his answer. A year
ago the answer would have been easy. Then it
would have been a negative. To exchange the
freedom of his life for the House of Commons, and
his quiet home life for the turmoil of London, would
have been especially hateful to him. But things
were changed. His home life now was a great
disappointment to him. His wife could enter into
none of his tastes, and neither share his plea-
sures, nor live his life. Every day showed him
this more clearly.
Alone, she was silent, openly bored, and short-
A Piece of News. 173
ened her day as much as possible by breakfasting-
in bed, and retiring very early, and leaving
him to read and smoke by himself every evening.
It was exactly as it used to be — only without Aunt
Anne's sympathising presence.
The arrival of the dullest neighbour, however,
would turn Mrs. Burlington from silence to speech,
and from dulness to brilliancy. It did not seem to
matter much w^ho it was so long (Mr. Burlington
thought bitterly) as it was not her husband! As
he was disappointed in his domestic life, it was
natural that political life should look like a provi-
dential opening. No man with any brains, any
energy, resigns himself to disappointment. A reac-
tion, a hope of something to interest and to make
up for it, drives many men into action. It made
Mr. Burlington a politician.
Another thing weighed with him. If he was
returned, as everyone assured him would be the
case, it would place them in London during the
iy4 A Brilliant Woman.
time the Wyncotes spent in the country ; and he
wished to avoid these people.
To talk everything over with Aunt Anne was
natural enough. But a difference of opinion had
arisen between them, and this spoiled the pleasure
a good deal, because, while allowing her wishes —
her entreaties were impossible— he could not deny
For the first time in his life Cyril Burlington saw
the right mode of action. His duty lay straight
before him, and yet he could not bring himself to
do it. Of course, Mrs. Burlington took advantage
of the situation, and filled the house. She was
always at her best when she had an audience,
especially if it was what she called an appreciative
audience. But she was quite unconscious of one
fact. It made her happy to shine and to be the
central figure of all the various arrangements. She
did not take into consideration that there were other
women who also liked to shine, and who made no
A Piece of News. 175
secret among themselves of their discontent and
disapproval at being put in the shade.
Among those invited to stay with them now was
a certain widow, Lady Rhodes, who described
herself as a " free lance" and was dreaded a little,
a good deal made of, and was one of the people
who could never be passed over — at any rate with
impunity. She had such a caressing manner that
it was some time before people found out that she
was capable of doing the most ill-natured things.
She was not good-looking, but she put on her things
well, and took the line of being * nobody in par-
She put herself, as it were, humbly at the feet
of any one she wished to conciliate, and was always
offering to do small services for them. " Let me get
it for you; I like running about," were words often
uttered, and she had a way of saying " Dearest
Mrs. So-and-so " which was very " fetching, " to use
a word often applied to her. By degrees people
176 A Brilliant Woman.
found out that she was capable of thwarting the
very plans she had encouraged, and when she found
out that any real service was required from her, or
that the people she had flattered were not likely to
do her any good turn, it was wonderful how quickly
she became too much occupied to see them, and
how suddenly they were dropped.
But Mrs. Burlington had this and many other
things to learn, and she was charmed with Lady
Rhodes. In her she thought she had found that
desirable thing — a friend who would openly assert
her superiority, and one to whom she could speak
frankly and openly. All her life she had wished
for some one older than herself to whom she might
turn for that full comprehension she imagined her
husband incapable of
"Dearest Mrs. Burlington," said Lady Rhodes as
she nestled down upon the sofa and patted the
luxurious cushions into comfortable shapes, " do tell
me all about everything — the play, the election, and
A Piece of News. 177
all else. I was dreadfully sorry I could not come
to the play. I was away, and could not be spared.
The dear Duchess made such a point of my being
at Overcove. You know them all ? — such a delightful
family ; so intellectual, so clever, so bright. "
''No, I do not know them."
"■ Ah ! it will all come. I myself . . . How they
would appreciate you ! A place — when you are quite
at home in it — you feel you would not exchange
for any other. Even I am, somehow, different
there. The dear Duchess has a knack of putting
you on such good terms with yourself I should
love seeing you there!"
** You are very kind, " said Maria, cordially. ** I
wish you had been here, and seen the play. It was
very pretty, and supposed to have been a great
•* I was sure it was a success, the moment I heard
people trying to invent ill-natured stories about it.
I knew it had been a success, and said so."
VOL. I. 12
178 A Brilliant Womatf.
"Did people invent ill-natured stories?" asked
Maria, who rose to this, as a woman of the worid
would never have done.
"Dearest Mrs. Burlington! of course they
did; did you ever know of a very popular
person without detraction, or a great success
that was not followed by ill-natured comments?"
And Lady Rhodes laughed a merry, enjoyable
" I suppose that it would not be fair to ask what
" It can do you no harm. It was only about
your petticoats. They were said to be short. " She
fixed her eyes upon a china vase full of brown
chrysanthemums, and rose to look at them.
" Such a lovely colour, and so artistically arranged,"
she said. "Needless to ask who adjusted them!"
She sank back again upon the cushions, and
again pulled and patted them into shape.
" How I envy you the conservatories and houses
A Piece of News. 179
here, dear Mrs. Burlington," she said, in an affec-
IMaria hardly heard her. " The petticoats were
not short," she said.
" Oh, you are actually dwelling upon that silly
gossip. Of course I know that; that was contra-
dicted at once. I wish I had not told you. You
see, I am so terribly impulsive. It is very stupid
to repeat these things; pray think no more about
it, dearest Mrs. Burlington. Everyone who knew
your husband knew "
Maria laughed as usual. Whenever she was a
little nervous or annoyed she could not help herself.
But, though this habit was annoying at times, nothing
could have happened more distinctly discomfiting to
Lady Rhodes at the present moment.
" I am glad that you take it that way, dear Mrs.
"I cannot help it," said Maria, laughing still.
**The petticoats — those petticoats — my petticoats
i8o A Brilliant Woman.
seem to have got upon everybody's brain ! Provincial
brains are apparently incapable of understanding
that if you attempt to represent a class you must
dress as they dress."
" Yes, " said Lady Rhodes, ambiguously ; " the
question really is whether that particular character
is suited to the — shall I say? — dignity of the person
who assumes it. After all, as I said before, when
envious detractors arise it only shows how great
the success must have been. Yours, my dearest
Mrs. Burlington, was such a success!"
Maria was too much flattered by this reiterated
assurance to perceive the innuendo. As a rule,,
she saw with remarkable slowness any doubtful
speech, and passed through life happily unconscious
of many little stings her aplomb and visible self-
satisfaction with herself were apt to provoke. If, even-
tually, she did perceive what was meant, her resent-
ment was great but momentary. The balm of her
own convictions healed any wound given. But
A Piece of News. 1 8 1
until now she had not provoked much adverse
criticism. People forgive in an inexperienced girl
what they resent in a married woman who has had
her day. But a young married woman in the country
who likes to monopolize the first place, and to
betray her vanity, meets with little mercy at the
hands of other women who are driven out in the
cold, and who fancy she is taking an ungenerous
advantage of her position.
Lady Rhodes began to study her " dear Mrs.
Burlington, " and found the study extremely amusing.
Never was any one more easy to read; never did
any one lay her thoughts and wishes more openly
to her gaze. At the end of one week Lady Rhodes
knew her thoroughly.
ABOUT POLITICS AND OTHER THINGS.
Besides Lady Rhodes, there were a few men, a
sprinkling of country neighbours, and a few people
Maria considered uninteresting, who gathered round
the future member at this juncture, and were staying
in the house.
Mr. Burlington was, in his own quiet way, a
man who, once he had undertaken a thing, became
really interested in its success. While nothing can
be more painful than the stumbling attempts of a
speaker who has not the gift of speaking in public,
so nothing is pleasanter than to hear a good speaker
About Politics and Other Things. 183
who possesses not only words, but also that power
of placing his ideas clearly and convincingly before
Mr. Burlington, who was a reserved man (and
was often miscalled a shy one), was never carried
away by his convictions. He spoke quietly, but
was evidently in earnest. And real earnestness —
the belief in what he said, the confidence in the
justness of his cause — communicated itself to his
His wife, who had never had a very high opinion
of his abilities, testified her great surprise in his
success as a speaker, in a way which w^as hardly
flattering. But Cyril had learned never to expect
her to show enthusiasm in his direction, and tried
to see every merit in her openness, even when that
openness was distasteful to him. Maria had insisted
upon going to hear him address the electors at a
preliminary meeting; and, finding the room hot,
she left it and made her w^ay by herself to the
184 A Brilliant Woman.
outer door, where she waited till the function was
over. A crowd of the usual description was standing-
about; and one near her, seeing she had come out
of the building, asked her in a familiar tone who
was speaking. " Mr. Burlington, " she said in a
dignified manner, meant to check his forwardness.
" Mr. Burlington ? He may save his breath, then.
He'll not get in. He's none for us ! "
" Why not ? " she asked, much surprised.
•* For many good reasons. For one thing, we
want a man who's married a born lady, and not
a dancing miss."
At that moment the meeting broke up. Mr.
Burlington saw his wife's pale face, and hurried her
into the carriage, much disturbed by her paleness.
He was so satisfied that it was the heat that he
asked her no questions. But he was much surprised
when she clung to his arm on reaching home,
and hurried him upstairs with her. He was still
more surprised when she faced him with an
About Politics and Other Things. 185
agitation quite foreign to her, and said, solemnly:
" Cyril, that unlucky, that detestable play has
lost you your election ! "
" My dear child, are you out of your senses ? "
he cried ; " what in the world do you mean ? "
" What I say. The people — the crowd have
heard some exaggerated account of my dancing,
and said they wanted a man who had married a
bom lady, and not a dancing miss ! "
Cyril turned pale and red by turns. " I knew it
would vex you, " said his wife. " I am so sorry ; I am
so distressed! I wonder, knowing, as you must have
known, the strong feeling about it that evidently
exists here, you did not urge me to give it all up. **
Her husband looked at her in blank surprise.
Had she really forgotten ? Had he not made it clear
to her how strongly he was against this acting, and
how steadily she had borne down his opposition
and triumphantly carried her point?
"You were so anxious to carry it out?" he said
1 86 A Brilliant Woman.
at length; "my objections seemed to you old-
fashioned and even unkind."
He spoke with suppressed excitement in his tone.
He knew well that the reference she had heard
carried a different meaning.
"I advise you to rest, and come down to dinner
fresh this evening."
She was by this time in tears. " I cannot go down
and face everyone to-night."
** I wish you would, and avoid any ill-natured
comments." He spoke very anxiously.
" Why is one obliged to think of these sorts of
things ? " she said, pettishly. " It seems to me that
here in the country every movement I make is of
consequence. People talk of the freedom of a country
life; I cannot see it."
H o w could he explain things to her ? At that moment
there was a gentle knock at the door, and Lady
Rhodes's voice, full of purring amiability, was heard:
" Dearest Mrs. Burlington, can I be of use? Are you ill? "
About Politics and Other Things, 187
"My wife is upset by the heat," said Mr. Burling-
ton ; " she is resting, and will be all right presently. "
He went to the door, and opened it a little as he
" I am so relieved. Quite a horrid, wicked story
of her having been insulted was told to me by
someone. One of the Wyncotes, I think. I am glad
it is nothing."
As her retreating footsteps died away, Mr. Burling-
ton said to his wife : " Say nothing to anyone of
what you heard. It is best."
" Very well, " said Maria, Vv^ho was much subdued ;
" and I will get up, Cyril, " she exclaimed, holding him
as he was leaving her sofa, " if . . . if you lose the
election, will you ever forgive me ? Why did I insist
on dancing that thing ? "
Cyril put a strong constraint on himself "If it
was only that! " he thought. "And the Wyncotes. . ."
" I will forgive you, poor child, " he said ; but the
constraint he put upon himself made his voice sound
1 88 A Brilliant Woman.
cold, and Maria heard the coldness, and spoke no more.
" I suppose it is too much to expect a man to
forgive?" she said to herself when he had gone.
And once more an opportunity was lost and another
misunderstanding had arisen.
Maria's face betrayed little of either illness or
annoyance when she appeared just before dinner.
Her eyelids were a little heavy, but this merely
softened the brilliancy of her eyes. Lady Rhodes,
who looked at her curiously, was completely baffled.
She attempted to make somewhat of an invalid of
her after dinner, but was laughed at in a good-
humoured way, and had not a single opportunity
for confidence given to her. As she sipped her coffee,
and carefully imbibed the sugar left at the bottom
of her cup, she was revolving in her own mind how
she could discover the weak spot which she knew
existed in all feminine armour.
If Mrs. Burlington had been wounded in any way
the eifect had been to drive her closer to her hus-
About Politics and Other Things. 189
band's side, and make her turn to him for comfort.
It was evident that a good understanding existed
between them, and that "the rift within the lute"
(which can never be mended) was far from both at
Not that Lady Rhodes wished actual dispeace,
she only wanted to find some way of shaking Mrs.
Burlington's calm self-complacency. It seemed so
tiresome to her that a woman she considered so
superficial, should glide over the surface of things,
and apparently enjoy every minute of her life, when
there existed a thousand reasons why she should be
ruffled and have her serenity disturbed.
Mrs. Burlington was so overflowing with prosperity
that she was an irritating spectacle to anyone who,
like Lady Rhodes, was not all prosperous. There
was something a little aggressive in it to many
people; and Lady Rhodes, who let nothing escape
her, was bent upon planting some thorn, however
small, in her flesh. It is wonderful how quickly
I go A Brilliant: Wornan.
one woman bent on mischief pieces things together
to the disadvantage of another woman. Lady Rhodes
knew nothing positively, but surmised much. She
longed to rouse Mrs. Burlington's placid feelings,
and to put her more on a level with other women.
In one of the short lulls which even in a very cheerful
society obtain occasionally, Mrs. Burlington caught
a name new to her, " Marcia Dorington." The name
struck her, and she remarked it. " An original, pretty
name," she said, standing up and presenting a very
pretty well-shod foot to the fire by leaning it on the
"A very original and extremely pretty girl, at
any rate, " said Lady Rhodes, meaningly — so mean-
ingly that Maria looked up, and, following her mocking
gaze, saw a visible flush on her husband's face. As
she was not in love with him, of course, it could
not be jealousy, and yet she was conscious of a distinct
feeling of annoyance.
" Is she a friend and neighbour? " she asked, speaking
About Politics and Other Things. 191
to everyone generally, but looking at her husband.
There was a little buzz, and she could not catch
her answer. Everyone appeared to speak at once
but there seemed to be a wonderful unanimity, at
"Such a popular girl!"
These w^ords of commendation echoed all over
" How strange ! " said Mrs. Burlington, " that a
girl whom everyone here seems to know" and to admire
so much, is one I have never till now heard men-
"She has been abroad/ said Mrs. Leigh, who
was the w4fe of an influential supporter of her
" But it is curious, " said Lady Rhodes, with a
malicious little laugh. " Perhaps it is a tender
192 A Brilliant Wommi.
"Was she, is she a particular friend?" said Maria,
turning more directly to her husband in her usual
perfectly straight-forward way.
" She is a friend — she is my friend, and I hope
will be yours, " he answered quietly, and the matter
ended there as far as those present could see. But
Lady Rhodes had not laughed in that pointed way
in vain. Do what she would, a vexatious image of
Marcia Dorington came frequently to disturb the
young wife's mind.
With all her self-possession, she was conscious
of deficiencies, and the idea of " a perfect woman,
nobly planned," was not a joy to her. This girl
had known Cyril much longer than she had. If
she was so fascinating, so full of perfection, why
had he not proposed to her? And what did that
flush upon her husband's face signify. This per-
plexing idea made her more silent than usual.
She was roused by a question put by Lady
Rhodes— a question she seemed herself to answer
About Politics and Other Things. 193
in a breath: "Are you very tired, dear Mrs. Bur-
lington? I am sure you are — I know you are!"
"Yes; I am tired," acceded ^Maria, rousing her-
self still more.
"No wonder; such a long day; so much to do!
I often think what a tax it must be upon you to
have so many to think of, so many to arrange for.
And you do it all so well!"
"There is, of course, a great deal to do," said
Maria, unsuspiciously. " My husband helps me all
"Ah! but he is more accustomed to it," Lady
Rhodes remarked, lightly.
"Of course; he has some years more of expe-
Maria was still unsuspicious, and attached no
importance to Lady Rhodes's words. But some-
thing in her tone brought Mr. Burlington to her
side. He came, however, so quietly that only his
wife noticed him.
VOL. I. 13
194 A Brilliant Woman.
" I heard such a good anecdote of a certain
Court lately," suddenly said Lady Rhodes, with
marked impertinence in her manner and waving
her fan about in a peculiar way, thereby fixing
everyone's attention on her words. " The reigning
prince married much beneath him ; a pretty parvenu.
The fact was sad, but had to be acknowledged,
and the princess held receptions, and gave balls,
and so on. Of course everybody went. Nobody
can afford to offend a reigning prince. After a
long reception one day, the princess threw herself
into an ann-chair, and complained of fatigue. Just
like you, dear Mrs. Burlington, she said how
tiring it was, etc., etc., to her sister-in-law, the
Prince's sister. 'How you can stand it I do not
know,' she said. 'I am dead beat!' 'Ah?' said
the sister-in-law. 'I was bom to it.' Clever, was
it not, and so true?"
"And where is the point of the story?" asked Mr. Bur-
lington, quietly. "Who is the parvenu in this case ? "
About Politics and Other Things. 195
Lady Rhodes bit her lip. " I never saw you,
dear Mr. Burlington. You gave me quite a start."
" Did I ? Pray finish your ^\.or\. I want to hear
how it all ended."
But Lady Rhodes was baffled, and it was most pro-
voking to see Mrs. Burlington's unruffled composure.
" Is she a wonderfully good actress, or does she
really know nothing?" Lady Rhodes asked herself,
as she watched her hostess turn with a smile to
some one, and agree to sing.
And she did sing with an unwavering voice, which
was clear and well-trained, though perhaps not
The guests were going next day, and it was
Lady Rhodes's very last chance. She was resolved
to say something in some way to upset the equa-
nimity of the woman she was beginning to hate,
because she could not put her down. Watching
her opportunity when billiards were in progress, she
once more began her attack.
196 A Brilliant Woman.
"What curious things names are," she said.
" Your maiden name, Mrs. BurHngton — Kingson,
was it not? What an odd derivation that must
have had. By the way, Kingson was the name,
was it not?"
" Yes; of course," answered Maria, quietly. " My
name was Kingson. I asked my uncle once whether
he had any theory about it, and he laughed and
said that son of a king spoke for itself You see
1 am evidently royally descended." She laughed
herself at her speech, and added, " I must live up
to my name."
"How strange," said Lady Rhodes; "I always
understood you were an adopted daughter."
•That is equally true," answered Maria, "My
dear uncle did adopt me. But I am his brother's
child. I may say that few orphans ever had a
happier home; I was never allowed to miss my
father or mother."
"That is quite touching," said Lady Rhodes in
About Politics and Other Things. 197
so altered a tone that Maria looked round to see
Her husband was coming to invite them to play
" I think mine is a quaint name — Rhodes. I am
sure no one ever heard of a single thing in con-
nection with it," said Lady Rhodes, carelessly.
" I have ! " said one of the girls present, who was
considered frivolous, and who was delighted to have
a chance of asserting herself, however mildly. " The
Colossus of Rhodes. "
Lady Rhodes reddened angrily, and affected not
to hear, as she sauntered back to the billiard-room.
"Why did that trifling speech annoy her?" asked
Mrs. Burlington in a Ioav voice of the young lady.
"Because, my dearest Mrs. Burlington," said the
delinquent, exactly in the voice of Lady Rhodes,
"" her feet are colossal, and a society paper insinuated
as much. Please do not look vexed. "
" I am vexed, " answered Maria, candidly. " I
198 A Brilliant Wo?nan.
confess I dislike personalities. I do not think this
sort of thing in good taste. "
" And what, in the world, has she been doing all
this time; what has she been saying to you? Have
you really not seen how hard she has tried to be
impertinent to you ? We all saw it. "
" I saw nothing, " answered Mrs. Burlington. But
a flash of consciousness came to her, and the height-
ened colour on her cheek and her erect bearing
spoke for itself.
But to Lady Rhodes she showed nothing. An
increased courtesy kept her more at a distance, and
when she said " good-bye " next day that lady had
the mortifying conviction that not one single arrow
she had shot had taken effect. Apparently, not one
had hit its mark.
Among those country neighbours of whom Cyril
Burlington — now that politics were in question — was
apt to see a good deal more than of old, was Sir
Henry Beryl. Sir Henry was a type of one of
the old-fashioned country squires, whose lives were
passed among their tenantry, and whose visits to
London were visits only, and not prolonged beyond
the two or three weeks necessary to see what was
going on, renew acquaintance with old friends, and
pay his respects to his sovereign. These deeds per-
formed, he turned his back upon the metropolis
200 A Brilliant Woman.
with increasing satisfaction every time he went there.
His property was so large that he was some miles
from most of his neighbours, but his place, Crab-
brook Hall, was so situated that he was in the very
centre of the county. He was as hospitable a man
as ever lived, and he considered that, being
placed where he was, his duty was (it was certainly
his pleasure) to bring those neighbours on either
side together who had few opportunities of meeting
in any other way.
He was well off and liberal; he had many chil-
dren of all ages. His elder daughters married, and
left him. His eldest son married, and that marriage
was the one drawback to Sir Henry's happiness.
For young Mrs. Beryl had no children, and there
was great unhappiness in the home of his son and
heir not only on that account, but also from another
cause. This cause was one Sir Henry himself could
not condone. And, in a measure, he took blame
Crahbrook Hall. 201
But he was too hopeful a man, and much too
even tempered, to be depressed at all times by
anything under the sun. It was only now and
again, when circumstances pressed the position of
affairs upon his notice, that his face grew grave,
and his buoyant spirits were subdued.
Young Mrs. Beryl — pretty, fair, gentle, an heiress,
and well-bom — had attacks of insanity, and the
reproaches that Sir Henry showered on himself were
that he had been so anxious for the marriage, that
he had promoted and urged it, and, though it was
iniquitous of her people to make no sign and to
allow the marriage, still he ought to have made
fuller inquiry, and not to have been led by his own
great anxiety to urge no delay.
For several years now young IMrs. Beryl had
grown worse. For many months the young people's
home had been virtually broken up, and, though
the actual facts of the case were not paraded before
the world, they were generally known. All this
202 A Brilliant Woma^i.
was sad enough, but a greater trial came to poor
Sir Henry. In the prime of life, full of all the
pleasant ways he inherited from his father, and with
much of his dead mother's beauty, Charlie Beryl
had so grieved at first that he was sent abroad to travel,
much, it may be said, against Sir Henry's wishes.
Like most Englishmen going abroad for the first
time when over thirty, and with a most imperfect
knowledge of languages, Charlie was only too much
pleased to make one of a party from his own
country and who had the same tastes and predi-
lections as himself. It was a terrible misfortune
that one of the party was Marcia Dorington, and
that she had heard nothing of the Beryls, and knew
nothing about young Beryl's wife. wShe had not
the slightest idea he was married— no one ever
alluded to his wife — and the friends she was travel-
ling with lived so far from Crabbrook, and the sad
story had been kept so quiet, that no one had more
than a vague idea of the circumstances.
Crabhrook Hall. 203
There was that tinge of sadness and melancholy
in Mr. Beryl's handsome face that, with the subdued
manner of one who had known something of sor-
row, made Mr. Beryl very attractive to a girl of
Marcia's temperament, who, like most w^arm-hearted,
good-natured girls, had the instinct, the genuine
instinct, of wishing to console.
Air. Beryl imagined that everyone in his neigh-
bourhood knew his story. On his side, therefore,
no particular blame could be attached. And poor
Marcia! . . . For the first time in all her life
she fell in love, and, it may be added, she did not
take the disease mildly.
When she found that her days were dull if
Charlie Beryl had not been there, and that he was
each day becoming the centre of all her hopes and
wishes, she gave him credit for the same hopes,
the same aspirations as she had.
It was at that time that Mr. Burlington became
mixed up with the story. For so much of truth
204 A Brilliant Woman.
lay in Lady Rhodes's insinuation that he had been
thrown a good deal with her, and at a very
important moment — at a great crisis of her life— he
had been there.
Marcia was a desirable wife for very many
reasons, and was one of the girls that the friends
of a young man were most likely to point out to
him as such — of course, as a rule, thereby defeating
their own wishes. Even Aunt Anne had, in her
own very quiet, gentle way, said something to
her nephew, and he had heartily agreed to all
her commendations, and allowed the matter to rest
there, somewhat to her sorrow. When he found
his friends at Vevay some instinct told him exactly
how things were, and, putting his own disappoint-
ment out of the question — and he was disappointed
— he was very much troubled and perturbed.
With all the keen insight of a man who was
himself in love, he saw the two drifting into a
hopeless passion, and he was convinced that one
Crabbrook Hall. 205
was in ignorance of any impediment, and that the
other was blind to what was patent to others — his
own increasing passion.
Like other men, Mr. Beryl thought that, because
he knew that any tie was an absolute impossibility,
other people must know it also, and that because
he knew it he could not fall in love, and gave his
passion every other name.
Mr. Burlington was a reserved man, and most
essentially a man who hated interfering in other
people s affairs. Enough of his own admiration had
been patent to IMarcia to make him sensitive in the
matter of telling her the truth. Was it not likely
that she might fancy that he spoke from a motive
which he honestly considered one that could not be
attributed to him? And in this way would he not
fall lower in her eyes ? And, though she gave him
no encouragement, she was one in whose eye he
desired to stand well.
For a long time — indeed, for many days — Cyril
2o6 A Brilliant Woman.
Burlington debated the subject in his own mind;
and during long nights he resolutely put himself
upon one side and thought of her and of her good
only. Too much credit need not be given him,
because his was a nature that could not continue
offering up incense at a shrine that never would
use it; and after a day where he had seen much
that disturbed him his resolution was taken. To
Charlie Beryl he felt that he could say nothing.
If he spoke he might betray Marcia's secret, and
he was convinced that up till now Charlie was
blind. He could not be the one to do what was
so undesirable; he could not open his eyes. But
as to Marcia. . . He thought the opportunity
good one evening. They had all been boating,
and he was going away next day. This would
be pleasanter for her, for once he had spoken
she might resent it, and might withdraw even the
calm measure of approbation which she bestowed,
and which he valued.
Crabbrook Hall. 207
" Miss Dorington, " he began, in a voice he tried
hard to make indifferent, " I have for some time
wondered whether you knew poor Chariie Beryl's
story. You are — interested in him ? "
There was a Httle start of surprise, and then Marcia
said, almost but not quite in her natural voice, " Of
course, I am interested in him. Has he a story? "
" A very, very sad story. "
" You do not take me quite by surprise. He has
a very melancholy face."
" You know his marriage is such a terrible thing,
poor fellow, " said Cyril, bravely, speaking in a
matter-of-fact voice, and even in the gathering
twilight keeping his eyes away from her face.
There was a silence for a few seconds, during which
Marcia's breathing became audible; then she said,
in a neutral voice, " Yes, " and again there was
" His wife showed symptoms of insanity very
soon after the marriage, and lately, indeed for many
2o8 A Brilliant Woman.
months, she has been much worse. You probably
knoAv the story. So I hardly know why I should
dwell upon it."
"But I know!" said Marcia, in a low voice;
" and it is kind, it is brave of you to tell all this
to me! Why, oh why, did no one "
" Everyone thought you knew ; he thinks so. I
was not sure. Forgive me! but I was not sure
whether you knew."
" Forgive you ! I thank you ! "
Marcia stood still. She laid her hand on her
throat, as if her lace handkerchief oppressed her.
Cyril stood beside her. He knew she was as far
from him as ever, but she had not misunderstood
him. He did not realise that unworthy motives
do not originate in pure and noble minds. It was
with a fine gesture that the girl turned at last to
say " Good-bye. " She laid her hand upon his, and
said, in a low voice : " All my life I will thank
you for having shown yourself my friend! No one
Crabhrook Hall. 209
need know that you told me this. " In another mo-
ment the darkness hid her from his sight. Was it
fancy, or did the soft wind bring the sound of a
sob to his ears?
He followed her in his thoughts, and he tried to fancy
what it would have been had she known all this at first.
It happens sometimes that two people meet, and
find out that they met too late. Cyril did not de-
ceive himself, however. He knew that hencefor-
ward she would see little of Charlie Beryl, but that
she would probably never care in that way for any
other man. What was left him now was to keep
her secret, which he did loyally. That night how
he admired her! There was no perceptible differ-
ence in her manner to Charlie. She was appa-
rently her usual self — gay, bright, and taking her
full share in the conversation going on. And then
next day Cyril went away, and for some months
they never met.
When, however, they did meet, the secret be-
VOL. I. 14
2IO A Brilliant Woman.
tween them drew them very naturally together.
When I^ady Rhodes tried to insinuate that there
had been something — a flirtation — a love affair —
between them she was wrong. But Cyril was half
afraid that in some way she had heard the truth.
He was so full of this fear that he never imagined
that any explanation was expected by his wife ;
he had still less an idea that she was capable of being
jealous. He had been assured by her people (who
ought to know) that her attachment to him was making
her unhappy ; he knew now that it could hardly have
been as vehement as was supposed, for it certainly
was not distressingly so at the present time, and
jealousy to his very masculine understanding could
not possibly exist without passion, vehement or
He was, therefore, very far from imagining that
Lady Rhodes had raised an uncomfortable sensation
in his wife's mind, and that his flush had deepened
He thought of Marcia sometimes with that re-
spectful feehng with which a man sees a woman act
well in difficult circumstances. It was impossible
for him to hold back from doing a thing, however
disagreeable, if he felt it his duty to do it. But,
conscious of the admiration he had for her, he
wanted the assurance — he wanted her assurance that
he had done right, and her thanks had been very
comforting to him. It would, indeed, have been
galling to him to have been made to feel that his
interference was uncalled for, though he knew he
would have been allow^ed to know this with all kindness.
It was breakfast time, and the husband and wife
were seated tete-a-tcte, reading their letters. Maria
looked up suddenly with much animation.
" Here is a kind invitation from Sir Henry Beryl.
A small party. That does not matter. Cyril, of
course we ca.n go?"
" What time does he ask us to go ? " Cyril looked
up from his own letter and gave her his attention.
212 A Brilliant Woman,
** On the 25th. Of course we can go."
" I am afraid, " Cyril began, but his wife inter-
rupted him, " Now, Cyril, do not be disagreeable !
What a break in the country stagnation ; and I am
dying to meet the more distant neighbours. "
" I am afraid you will find it a little dull there.
It is most kind of Sir Henry. He asks few people
to his house, poor old man ! "
Cyril hesitated a little. Maria was up in arms at
once. " Oh, if it is another vState secret, " she said,
gathering her letters together and preparing to
leave the room.
" What State secret are you alluding to, " asked
Cyril, in genuine surprise.
" Oh, you know. I find these thing's out for
myself, " she said, drawing her head up. " I will
only say one word — Marcia. Is that enough ? "
Cyril was so completely taken by surprise that
Tie let her go.
Crabbrook Hall. 213
In a moment she looked into the room again,
and said, "I am going to accept this invitation all
the same. "
" Do SQ, " he said, coldly.
What had she found out, and how much of the
real story did she know?
Had Lady Rhodes put things together and told
her surmises as facts?
He was afraid of hearing what he held as a
sacred confidence discussed by his wife. He knew
that, as regarded himself, he had not breathed the
stor}' to a living soul.
Had Marcia taken some one into her confidence,
and had her confidence been betrayed?
This was unlikely. Maria, having thrown con-
fusion into her husband's stronghold, was aggres-
sively triumphant. No cross purpose was ever more
Unfortunately, Mrs. Burlington imagined that she
had at length discovered a flaw in her husband's
2 14 ^"^ Brilliant Woman
armour. She was longing to meet Marcia and to
let her see for herself how well she could hold her
own. She was longing to see her for many reasons,
and tried to find out where and when they were
likely to meet. In a tone of studied indifference
she said to Cyril, "I suppose your friend, Miss
Marcia Dorington, will be at Crabbrook. She knows
them intimately, does she not ? "
" Yes, they are friends of long standing. But
your meeting her there is most unlikely. Nothing
is more unlikely. "
He spoke with some heat, annoyed by her per-
sistent allusion to Marcia.
And Mrs. Burlington said to herself, " That is it.
They will, of course, not invite his old love to
meet me. "
AT THE BERYLS'.
There is nothing fairer than a beautiful English
landscape on a lovely day. Crabbrook was an ideal
place. It looked what it was — the ancestral home
of a family in whose hands it had been for many
generations. It was impossible not to notice the way
in which the magnificent timber had been allowed
fair play, or the variety of trees; the splendid old
silver firs, with bent and twisted branches, standing
here as a back ground for graceful quivering aspens ;
and there, standing out alone upon some knoll, and
serving as a landmark for so many miles.
2 1 6 A Brilliant Woman.
There was a long lake in the hollow of the park,
and the deer park ended on one side of it. On
the still evenings their hoarse call, and the occasional
collision of two having a free fight with their horns
apparently locked together, then disentangling them-
selves and again clashing together, were familiar
The upper end of the lake was very carefully
preserved as a breeding-place for wild-fowl and herds
of every description. Even the woods that fringed
the high banks on either side of the water were
left untouched. Honeysuckle threw strong suckers
across from bough to bough, and hung in long
festoons, filling the air with fragrance. Brambles
clambered and climbed in tangled masses; and
everywhere in these open spaces — caused by a fallen
tree — wild flowers in spring and tall flowering grasses
in summer, gave an additional charm to the spot.
It was a paradise for singing birds and for all wild
things. The avenue wound along a height, and
Af the Beryls'. 217
there were vistas of all this natural beauty, and of
the lake, and, looking down upon it, one took in
something of the charm of a primeval forest if in
By degrees the road descended and wound along
the lake, and a very old-fashioned bridge which led
directly up to the house, at times apparently being
close to it, and then turning to avoid some splendid
specimen of oak— in its whole length of three miles
taking advantage of e\^ery beautiful bit of distant
landscape, skilfully planned to this end.
Mrs. Burlington, whose life had not shown her
many of the beautiful English houses, was ver}'
much impressed by the large and wide parks and
by the well-kept look of everything. For upwards
of a mile the turf on both sides of the drive was
kept like a lawn. Behind an invisible fence masses
of rhododendron and flowering shrubs broke the
monotonous lines of the tall trees and open spaces,
and allowed the eye to wander over a great extent
2i8 A Brillia7it Wo7nan.
of ground, stretching from the well-timbered park
and its lake across a wide valley dotted with houses
and trees, and ending in a long blue line which
indicated the beginning of the great Welsh hills.
The kind host was on the terrace in front of the
house to welcome the Burlingtons, and Maria acknow-
ledged to herself that in his chivalric greeting a
very real welcome was given.
She was at her best as she smiled her apprecia-
tion, and all would have been well had she not
heard with her acute sense of hearing her husband
say, in a very low tone, " Thank you ! "
A further mystery!
What in the world was her husband so very
grateful about? It gave her an uncomfortable sense
of not understanding all that was going on around
her, and it was perhaps natural that in her present
mood she attributed those grateful words to some
action taken with regard to Marcia Dorington. ITie
front door was a very old arched doorway, and
A^ the Beryls'. 219
had studded double doors and a wide space on
either side where rugs and wraps were piled upon
massive oak tables. The inner door opened into an
old hall, which was used as a billiard-room at one
end, and a living room at the other. There were
tv^o fireplaces, and the large tables had some beau-
tiful flowers in tall vases on them, books, papers,
and all those pleasant signs of a place habitually
The wide sofas and deep arm-chairs had a look
of very real comfort, and Maria had only time to
give a glance of appreciation when the sound of
music stopped, and several people came in and
shook hands with her.
She was taken possession of by the elder daugh-
ters at home, and they were taking her to her room
when Sir Henry called out " Hullo ! where is tea
to be found this afternoon ?"
" Here, father. We said a few minutes past five
because it gives the Duchess time to get here and
2 20 A Brilliant Woman.
have it comfortably. You do not mind, I hope,"
said Annie, turning to Mrs. Burling-ton as they
pursued their way, " if you would like it earlier we
can have some sent to your room."
" Oh, pray do not think of such a thing, " said
Maria earnestly. " I am not at all a slave to hours,
and, indeed, am a little indifferent to all meals."
" Yet you look perfectly strong, " answered Annie.
"Do you mean you are never very hungry?"
" If I am immensely interested in a book I for-
get all about meals," said Mrs. Burlington gravely,
a little anxious to impress her young hostess with
the fact of her having a claim to intellectual su-
" Ah ! I understand that, " said Annie very cordi-
ally all the same. " I am afraid I always feel it
virtuous putting off five o'clock tea ; yet it is in many
ways the pleasantest meal of the day. I like in-
formal things so much. " She left her guest to take
off her things, and went down to join the others.
At the Beryls . 221
Maria's room opened on to a wide landing, and
when she was ready she paused for a moment to
look down from one of the arches of the gallery
running round the hall, and she acknowledged the
sight to be very pleasant. There were several w^omen,
itiost of them young, and a few men, who sauntered
in evidently from active occupation out of doors.
Two girls in riding-habits and Sir Henry and her
own husband, who were deep in conversation, stood
apart from the others. " Politics, of course, " thought
Mrs. Burlington. She reflected for a moment whether
she would also take up a political line, and she
decided that it was the right thing to do. It was
evident that here it was a subject of great interest,
and she regretted, though only for a moment, that
she had not followed it at all ; and she was conscious
of knowing very little about it. But, with her happy
method of arranging everything to her liking, she
considered that probably none of the other women
knew any more than she did herself, and she felt
222 A Brilliant Woman.
confident that at any rate she could talk quite as
well upon the subject as any one else.
She joined them all, conscious of being at all events
beautifully dressed, and with a very elaborate bit of
work in a still more elaborate work-bag in her hands.
She was introduced in a kind and pleasant way
to those people nearest her, and in that quiet and
indescribable manner achieved only by those accus-
tomed to good society, she was made to feel at home
and that she was considered as one of themselves.
She found that the two girls in riding-habits were
distant neighbours, and she discovered at once that
they were not prepared to be friendly towards her,
and that they were only held in check by Miss
And yet Maria was in a way more attracted than
repelled by them. There was something amusing,
if flippant, in their speech, and, while she was quite
conscious (in that subtle manner in which one woman
knows at once the attitude of another towards her)
Ai the Beryls'. 221
that for some reason they wished to be impertinent
to her, she imagined that she could easily win them,
and that only their imperfect acquaintance with her
made them antagonistic.
Miss Beryl was called by Sir Henry, who was
'still talking earnestly to Cyril Burlington, to settle
some date for him, and one of the Miss Renshaws
immediately placed herself close to Maria, who made
a little room for her by way of welcome.
" Is that your work, Mrs. Burlington ? " asked
Cynthia Renshaw, with affected astonishment.
" Yes. It is my company work, " she answered,
" I am so surprised. Julia ! " calling to her sister ;
" Mrs. Burlington has got some very elaborate work,
and seems able to do it ! "
" Dear me, Mrs. Burlington, may I see it ? " asked
Julia Renshaw, and then, taking an incroyable from
her breast-coat pocket, she examined it critically
and in silence.
2 24 ^^ Brilliant Woman,
Maria laughed good-temperedly. "Did you think
I was so absorbed in politics just now as not to be
able to do anything else?" she asked.
• In politics ! Oh, dear, no ! "
"We were led to believe — we were told that the
only thing you could do was to dance. "
" Always that wretched dance, " thought Mrs. Bur-
lington. Her face flushed, but she answered with
perfect self-command, " I certainly danced once when
the character I took in our play required it. It was
my first appearance and, probably, will be my last.
I rather regret having danced at all down here now.
" Do you, really ? Well, it is all very surprising
to us, is it not, Julia?"
" Yes ; we heard such a different story. But why
regret it, Mrs. Burlington?"
" Because, " said Maria very distinctly, " things
that are done in London society every day, and
are not thought at all wonderful, are made of absurd
A I the Beryls'. 225
importance in a limited country neighbourhood. The
provincial mind appears to be ill-naturedly inclined,
and, being ignorant of the world, takes exception
to these things. They know no better."
She had raised her voice, and her words were
distinctly heard all over the hall. Mr. Burlington
drew near, and was vexed to see his wife's excited
countenance and sparkling eyes.
The Renshaws observed him approach, and began
quickly to talk of the Duchess and other matters.
Maria, who was trying to master her annoyance,
was a little impressed by their manner of talking
of the Duchess.
"She is not pretty, is she?" said Julia Renshaw;
"rather a dowdy little woman, I think."
"And has not very much to say for herself,"
added Cynthia. " She is one of the women who do
not know how to make the best of their position."
"We are all very fond of her here," said Miss
Beryl. " Father quite sw^ears by her."
VOL. I. 15
2 26 A Brilliant Woman.
"Does he? Well, I never can see her merits.
I always think that she and her very great friend,
Marcia Dorington, are so well suited to each other.
They are quite right to run in couples."
Maria heard and noted; if she was never to
meet Marcia Dorington and her curiosity was not
to be set at rest, at any rate her great friend was
coming, and through her she might learn much.
And Maria was resolved to know everything she
considered due to herself. Not for one moment
did it occur to her that, if a secret existed, it might
belong to another person, and not to her husband;
and that he might be in honour bound not to betray
it. She had very little time for further reflections,
however, as the Duchess arrived, and the welcoming
and introductions and the arrival of tea made a
Maria's first conscious feeling reflected upon herself.
It was a horrible sensation to feel terribly over-
dressed, and yet the advent of the young Duchess,
A I the Beryls'. zi'j
in the perfection of simplicity and a tweed gown
made her hate her own clothes.
Dowdy! plain! a tall, slight figure with irregular
features, lovely, soft, brilliant eyes, and a com-
plexion which was clear and bright, and changed
with every passing emotion. Something frank, per-
fectly natural, and perfectly unconscious made the
Duchess very charming; there was that element
of purity and goodness about her which insensibly
raised the tone of those around her. After reco-
vering a little from her shock of feeling, almost for
the first time, dissatisfied with herself, Maria had
time to be amused at the efforts made by the Ren-
shaws to affect intimacy and friendship with the lady
they had been disparaging a few minutes before.
They were met with well-bred politeness, which
kept them further off than they liked; and the}'
became quite officious and pressing in their attentions,
without succeeding in any way, and after tea they asked
for their horses, and rode off evidently discomfited.
2 28 A Brilliant Woma7i.
A thousand subjects seemed to be of interest to
those young women left now to talk together —
working guilds, new books, the illness and recovery
of mutual friends. All these topics were touched
upon, and, though Maria knew very little of these
things, she was not allowed to feel herself left out
in the cold, but her opinion was asked, and she
was referred to as if she was one in thought with
them and willing to work with them. The Duke
arrived very late from a country meeting, and he
was evidently particularly pleased to see Mr. Bur-
He did not look quite as pleased to find Mrs.
Burlington sitting next to his wife, and she rose to
greet him, and introduced Cyril's wife with a slight
air of emprcssement as if to turn aside any possible
awkwardness. Maria, with that acute sense of any
adverse feeling towards herself, saw that he looked
at her critically and not admiringly. But his manner
was courteous enough, and he stood for a moment
A^ the Beryls\ 2 2g
or two talking as he had his tea, and he was then
taken possession of by his young wife in a way
which Mrs. Burhngton thought showed an amount
of conjugal affection she was unaccustomed to.
She looked on the table for newspapers, and laid
hands on two or three she had seen the Duke lay
down as he came in, and she went off to her room,
resolved that she should study them carefully and
replace them when she knew their contents. As
a politician and understanding the questions of the
day, the Duke would be forced to admire her, and
obliged to show his approbation and admiration at
the same time. Taking off her dress, and getting
her maid to undo her hair, Maria lay down on the
sofa in her own room, and began to study the
lesson she had set her heart upon learning. She
had an excellent memory, and she learned that
lesson very thoroughly.
A GREAT MISTAKE.
Mrs. Burlington's maid was much exercised in her
mind as to what was the reason of a new whim of
her lady's. She had gone to Crabbrook Hall with
the usual supply of dresses, and had herself selected
and named them with due thoughtfulness. That
evening she had decided to wear a white satin, and
with it a collar of diamonds and sapphires, beautiful
family jewels, which her husband had had reset for
her. The gown was a very becoming one, and
made quite in the latest fashion, and until now
Mrs. Burlington had openly admired it, and had
A Great Mistake. 231
been specially pleased with her own appearance
when she had worn it.
It was lying on the bed now; her jewel-case was
ready to be unlocked; and all the little essentials
for her toilette were ready also.
, But Mrs. Burlington surveyed everything with
great discontent, and, with some irritation, begged
that that gown and all its accessories might at once
be put away.
" What will you wear, ma'am ? " asked the sur-
" Something simpler, plainer. "
"There is a large dinner to meet their Graces."
" That does not matter. Have you that half-high
" Your everyday dress, ma'am ? "
"Since I wear a teagown most days, you can
hardly call it my everyday dress."
Horton was mute. She put the satin gown
away, and, with great mortification, took out the
232 A Brilliant Woman.
white muslin — a pretty simple affair such as a
young lady not yet out might have worn with
approbation. Her hair was simply done, and this
dress was without one single jewel. Maria and
her husband went downstairs.
The unobservant man never noticed his wife's
dress, and they joined the party in the room next
the dining-room, where few lights obtained, and in
the comparatively dim light no one's dress could
be much seen.
The Duke and Duchess were not down yet ; but
just as the music of the bells announced dinner,
and the folding-doors leading into the dining-room
were thrown back, displaying a brilliantly-lit room
and a beautifully decorated table, the Duchess
entered, followed by her husband. The Duchess
had paid her hosts the compliment of being most
beautifully dressed. She had on some soft glittering
stuif that clung in graceful folds round her slim
figure, and she had diamond stars and large single
A Great Mistake. 233
diamonds among her hair. One splendid heart was
suspended round her throat by a ver^^ small diamond
riviere. Her dress was half high, and an Elizabethan
collar stood up behind her head, and, framed it in
a very becoming fashion.
Maria was most excessively annoyed. How was
she to follow^ such caprices as these ? That afternoon
a tailor-made tweed without even a button in sight.
In the evening a figure so brilliant that she was
hopelessly beyond everyone else. Maria mentally
anathematised her own stupidity, and wished with
all her heart that she had kept to her first intention
regarding her dress.
She was so discomfited that she was a very distinct
disappointment to the man who had been told off
to take her in, and who heard a good deal about
her brilliancy and her somewhat caustic tongue. She
w^as subdued, very quiet, and not at all herself,
answered at random, and spoiled his two best stories
by laughing in the wrong place.
234 ^ Brilliant Woman.
Brilliant ! He came to the conclusion after his fish,
that she was awkward and shy ; by the end of the
third course he thought her disagreeable, and by
the time dinner was over made a mental note against
her. Never again would he willingly waste an evening
by her side!
After dinner she sat down a little apart ft-om the
others, and Miss Beryl, afi-aid that she was unwell,
went and sat down beside her. Maria was so much
put out by having done the wrong thing that she
could not even try to speak as usual.
Conversation languished in these circumstances,
but Miss Beryl gallantly persevered, and her manner
was so kind and so encouraging that at length she
provoked a confidence. " Is the Duchess capricious ? "
asked Maria, in a low voice.
"Oh, dear, no! "What makes you think so?"
" Her gown when she arrived and her gown now. "
"I am afi-aid I do not quite understand you."
And Miss Beryl made a movement as if to go.
A Great Mistake, 235
Confidences in a low voice about a friend in that
firiend's presence were the very last thing she liked.
" Why did she wear such a very plain dress when
she arrived that I felt overdressed? And now she
has gone to the other extreme/
Poor Miss Beryl was nonplussed. She very nearly
** The Duchess dresses suitably, I suppose. In a
railway carriage, with a long drive at each end, of
course a travelling dress is right. We are always
fond of seeing her pretty jewels — father especially
— and she always dresses (most kindly!) to please
him when she is with us."
Her voice had a certain quiver in it, and Maria
got hot and uncomfortable. This very simple state-
ment made her feel such a fool !
Miss Beryl left her, and went to attend to
something her father was saying as he and the
other gentlemen all came into the room.
Seeing her seated alone, her husband went up to
236 A Brilliant IVopian.
her, and was distressed to find her in a depressed
and irritable mood. He had no clue to her
discomfiture, and was afraid that someone had
annoyed her. But, as his eiForts seemed to make
things worse, he left her after a time, and returned
to talk to young Beryl, with whom he had been
discussing matter of county business. Suddenly
Maria threw ofF her depression. She had come
to the conclusion that she would not allow a
stupid mistake to put her at a disadvantage. She
joined the others, and somewhat surprised everyone
by her ease of manner and her somewhat daring
The Duke, who always liked bandying words
with a pretty woman, was very soon having what
he considered a good game, and a war of words
went on which amused the bystanders a good deal.
Through it all, however, Maria's aim and object
were, if possible, to make the Duchess a little un-
comfortable. She had been the innocent cause of
A Great Mistake. 237
putting her in the wrong, and of destroying her
self-complacency; if possible, she must make her
feel it. None of the bystanders saw anything but
pure fun in the whole thing, except Cyril; and,
whether it was a presentiment or some feeling he
could not explain, he listened with very real
annoyance and a vague dread of he knew not what.
** Ah ! " at last exclaimed his Grace laughing, " I
shall have to giv^e in. I shall have to cry ' Peccavi,'
and I shall wait to conclude the battle till Marcia
Dorington is beside me. If she were here, you
would have to look to your weapons."
" If she were here ! Your Grace well knows that
'here' is the very last place she would come to — the
last place where she would be asked just now."
The words were heard clear and sharp all over
the room, and the most terrible silence reigned.
As if still more unfortunately to point them, Maria,
somewhat startled by the silence, raised her eyes,
and met young Mr. Beryl's fixed upon her with a
238 A Brilliant WomajT.
look so full of passionate reproach that she gazed
spellbound at his face.
The Duchess, who was near the pianoforte, began
to play something with fingers that trembled a little,
and under the cover of her music conversation in
a very limp fashion began again. But the evening
w^s spoiled for everyone, and full of uneasiness,
more thoroughly unhappy than she had yet been,
Maria looked round for her husband — he had
Maria was still more conscious of having said
the wrong thing when every one went to bed.
Only Miss Beryl touched her hand coldly and said
** Good-night." Almost every other woman bowed
very stiffly, and did not speak.
Dismissing her maid, Maria sat down in a sort
of stupor of surprise. What had she done ? What
was there in her speech that had caused such a
movement of direct antagonism towards her?
She fell asleep at last, and when she woke she
A Great Mistake. 239
was still in her armchair and the fire was out.
She looked at her watch; it was nearly three,
and Cyril had not come up.
She crept into bed and fell asleep, and slept late
into the next morning. When her maid brought her
early cup of tea there was a note from her husband.
They must go home at once. Indeed, he had
gone, and she had better leave before anyone was
up. He offered no explanations, and Maria was
quite bewildered. Go! just as she was making
friends with everyone. It was so provoking. Go!
without saying good-bye to anyone. What in the
world was the meaning of it all?
Maria did not want courage. She resolved that
she should see Sir Henry at any rate, and she
wTote him a little note, begging him to see her.
But she was much discomfited by having her note
brought back. Sir Henry was out riding. He always
rode early, and he would not be in for some time.
He never returned till breakfast was ready. The
240 A Brilliant Woma?i.
carriage was ordered at nine for her. There was no-
thing for it, therefore, but to leave ; and as Maria got
into the carriage and drove past the deep and
beautiful lake and all else she had conviction, per-
haps for the first time in all her life, that she had,
from the beginning of her visit to the end of it,
made herself in some way ridiculous.
She arrived to find herself expected at home. She
was afraid of going out, and in so doing missing
Cyril, and she was burning with anxiety to have an
She could settle to nothing. She wandered from
one room to another restlessly and aimlessly, and
never had a day seemed so long. It was late when
he returned. Maria had never realised what his
anger would be like, and she hardly knew him now —
the stem, severe expression, the ringing contempt in
his voice. Her attempt at justification died upon her lips.
** Where did you get hold of that story ? " he
asked at length.
A Great Mistake. 241
" About Marcia Dorington ? "
He bowed his head.
" Lady Rhodes said something ... I guessed the
rest. Cyril, why should you be so very angry? It
was only fun ! "
Cyril's face was a perfect study. There were
anger and bitter contempt through it all, and the
Was it possible that his wife — his wife — could
risk wounding anyone's feelings, and see no wrong
in handling a private matter, and showing- it up
before everyone as a jest ?
What he might have said or done, no one can
say, because even his angry eyes perceived that his
wife looked ill, and the bewilderment in her face
and her sudden pallor softened him a little.
After all, if she was absolutely destitute of deli-
cacy of feeling, if, in order to create a moment's
laughter, she did not hesitate to put honour and
every consideration upon one side, was it not because
VOL. I. 16
242 A Brilliant Woman,
of some want in her nature for which she could not
be severely blamed?
"You are ill," he said; "shall I call some one?"
" I am ill, " she said ; " I feel very odd. I am not
accustomed to illness."
Her words came slowly from her lips, and he rang
for her maid, and summoned Mrs. Butt, whose
experience might be of use. Before next morning
dawned Cyril had been told at the same moment
that there had been certain hopes, and that they
were extinguished. His wife was very ill.
No position could well be more trying than the one
in which Cyril Burlington found himself at this time.
All his kinder and gentler thoughts were enlisted
on his wife's behalf on account of her real illness
and sufferings, such as he had never realised before.
But between him and the friend who was the dearest
and best friend he had on earth lay a shadow now,
and it was impossible to see how it could ever be lifted.
All that had passed regarding Marcia Dorington
had been to him absolutely sacred. Few words had
passed between the two men about her.
244 ^ Brilliant Woman.
Even when his interference had been made known
to Charlie Beryl, their friendship had stood the test.
There had been a hard grasp of the hand as Cyril
had acknowledged his act. " She did not know —
and I told her," he had said, and after a conflict
with himself poor Charlie had said in a hoarse voice,
** You have done right. " From that hour their
friendship had been greater even than before, each
man respecting the other for the way in w^hich all
had been done. Now in some way the story had
come to his wife's ears, and she had used her
knowledge very cruelly. How was Mr. Burlington
to know that the story insinuated by Lady Rhodes
referred to his supposed admiration, and that his
wife had merely wished to annoy the Duchess by
putting her great friend in the position of a slighted
being ? How could he justify himself to his friend ;
what assurance was possible ? Even to touch upon
the subject seemed to him impossible, and after all
qui s' excuse s' accuse.
FartJicr Mistakes. 245
He thought very bitterly of it all, and running-
through all was the natural grief about his wife's
illness and their mutual loss. He was conscious
that there was very much that he failed to com-
prehend in his wife's character. There was to him
such a curious mixture of daring and ignorance
that he never knew what she was likely to say or
do next, or how she would take anything. The last
act of hers set them farther apart than they had
yet been. It was cruel and it was unwomanly.
A young wife capable of such an act must have,
he feared, a bad heart. . There was, indeed, a sense
of outrage just now that made justice impossible
for him in her direction.
Had he been able to talk it over with Aunt
Anne ! But that was not possible. He must bear
his burden, and make no sign. He must bear the
stigma of having put his friend's secret at the
merc}^ of an indiscreet woman, and take no means
to clear his honour. He was, however, thankful
246 A Brilliant Woman.
that the sudden and unexpected return from a visit
they were expected to prolong was so naturally
accounted for. Maria's illness accounted for every-
thing, and saved all sorts of explanations. Aunt
Anne lost no time in arriving to inquire and to
It was not for some days that she was allowed
to see Maria, and she was grieved to notice how
completely she seemed to have lost her spirits. Her
loss was sad, but to an affectionate and shrewd
observer like Aunt Anne there seemed something
else. And in the short sentences she uttered there
was a tone of hopelessness which she could not
account for. As time went on, and the marked
improvement brought permission to go to the bou-
doir, and then to resume all the habits of complete
health, there was a strange disinclination to avail
herself of the permission.
She also seemed curiously anxious never to be
alone with Cyril, and poor Aunt Anne came to the
Farther Mistakes, 247
conclusion that the various phases of temper so
characteristic of the present day were utterly beyond
her. One good thing, however, resulted. Maria
was more drawn towards her and was kinder and
more thoughtful about her and her comforts than
she had yet shown herself. She was frequently
tempted to dine with them, and it was on one of
these occasions that the elder woman received far-
** Now that you are strong and well again, you
will, I am sure, begin to help Cyril about his elec-
tion. I feel that no more time must be lost."
"I have given up all idea of standing for this
division of the country," said Cyril, shortly.
" What do you mean ? " Aunt Anne was so in-
tensely surprised that she gazed at him in quite a
Cyril laughed uneasily. " I do not intend trying
to get elected for anything. I have made up my
mind to give it up."
248 A Brilliant Woman.
" Is this news to you, or did you know it ? "
asked Aunt Anne, turning to Maria.
But Maria's expression of supreme astonishment
answered for her.
" It will be a very great disappointment to Sir
Henry Beryl, to Charlie, and to all your friends."
His cynical and bitter tone surprised her. His
wife's face still showed nothing save intense surprise.
What did this all mean?
" Cyril, " she said, gravely, " it is a new thing
for you to speak of your friends bitterly, and it is
a new thing for you to have some annoyance you
cannot speak out. But never mind me, dear! Now
you have a wife who is, I am glad to know, an-
xious to be one with you in everything, I no longer
expect all your confidence. One thing, dear," the
old lady said bravely, " I am quite sure all you
do is from a good motive, and that if you withhold
your confidence it is because you feel it right to do so. "
Farther Mistakes. 249
Cyril reddened. How could he do what he longed
to do — tell her everything? How explain the cruel
position in which his wife had placed him ? Silence
was his safest course. There is no doubt that all
these troubles — which weighed so terribly upon
him — did not tend to make him an agreeable com-
Maria bore with him in silence. And it in-
creased his strong disapprobation that she apparently
cared so little for all the trouble she had brought
upon him. For, though she had fretted over her
loss a good deal at first, and had been annoyed
and bewildered by the position of being, as it were,
in disgrace, her buoyant nature helped her to re-
assert herself, and her sense of being unjustly treated
roused all her spirit, and made her once more
assert herself, once more let her laugh be heard,
and, above all, hide from the husband who was so
unjust how deeply his conduct affected her.
One sentence might have saved all this misunder-
250 A Brilliant Woman,
standing. Who was to pronounce it ? And, in the
history of many misunderstandings, is it not too
often the case? A few words make a rift, and
silence widens it. Had love been there, it might
all have been so different. But whatever Cyril
thought, whatever he intended, the matter was in
a great measure taken out of his hands. He was
essentially a man in whom other men believed.
He was recognised as an able man, a good speaker,
and he was essentially a politician and not a parti-
san, and he was soon obliged to yield to the
various requisitions sent to him. He ?/i7ist stand,
and he was forced to withdraw his resignation and
Maria was thankful simply because it would
occupy him, and that in some very bewildering
way he allowed her to feel that the compHcation
was her doing.
And it gave her an opportunity for exerting
herself which her natural energy longed for. At
Farther Mistakes, 251
any rate, now she had an opening, and she would
be able to prove her ability. At Crabbrook Hall
she had carefully studied those papers, and she
knew their arguments by heart. She had been a
good deal surprised to find how^ completely she
must have misunderstood the political principles and
ideas of her husband and his party, since here those
very principles were ridiculed, and any possible
merit attaching to actions taken by that party w^as
carefully explained away. Virulent abuse of the
Government, sarcastic remarks, and all the license
of party warfare were given.
Maria was surprised at first, and then the clever
way in which shallow arguments were handled
pleased her; and, without asking her husband what
all this meant, knowing indeed so little of the sub-
ject as to be ignorant of the real principles sup-
ported by her husband, she never took in that those
papers had been purposely taken to Crabbrook in
order to show the line of argument the party had
252 A Brilliant Woman.
to defend themselves against, so as to have their
She read various leading articles, felt she knew
everything now, and that she had mastered the
whole subject. She was only longing for her op-
portunity, and at last that opportunity came. Mr.
Bathurst, a prominent man, particularly noted for
his satire, pungent wit, and a vein of suspicion
which prevented his having many intimate friends,
was staying in the neighbourhood with his wife.
It was suggested to Cyril that it would be a
golden opportunity. Tw^o undecided neighbours, who
were "halting betw^een two opinions," might be
completely won over to their side if, in an infor-
mal way, they had an opportunity given them of
hearing Mr. Bathurst in private life, and of being
brought under his influence. It may be said that
Cyril would far rather have had a man's party.
He had grown to dread the line his wife might
take on any occasion. The misunderstanding be-
Farther Alts takes. 255
tween them had not yet been cleared up, and every
time he reflected upon that scene at Crabbrook
Hall the less he felt that he understood her.
There were some bitter moments when he thoug-ht
she had purposely been malicious, though he tried
very honestly to forget it, and to take the most
charitable view of her conduct.
Now, however, he had plunged once more into
the political sea, and he was a good deal aw^ay
from home, glad to be forced to think of other
things, and especially to forget his mortification.
He was too tired to discuss politics with his w^ife
when he got home, and, besides, he knew that
her interest in the whole matter meant simply — a
house in London, or not.
No man is always alive to or quite understands
the forces which drive a woman into action. Cyril
knew less than many men.
He did a supremely unwise thing. Looking vague-
ly before him, and not at all at her, he said,
254 ^ Bj'illiant Woman.
'' You had better not talk much. Your acquain-
tance with poUtics is rather superficial. The men
coming will have a good deal to say. It will be
much better if you will listen."
" I understand Mrs. Bathurst to be a great talker.
I wonder whether her husband has been so polite
as to order her to hold her tongue ?"
Cyril did not answer at once. Her air was one
of deep offence, and he was vexed with himself for
having annoyed her.
" I am afraid I put it rather strongly. "
"You put it very strongly."
" Forgive me, Maria ; I wish you to be at your best. **
"And to be dumb."
"You know that is not my meaning." Already
his penitence was fading. " Your acquaintance with
politics zs superficial; if you were drawn out on
the subject you might make a mistake."
" I might, certainly. "
This was all that passed. Was it in nature (a
Farther Mistakes, 255
woman's nature) not to try to prove him wrong ?
Aunt Anne could not join them. She suffered
from rheumatism, and seldom went out in the even-
ing at that time. There was no doubt that when
Maria appeared, being a little late, the guests were
much impressed. She was in a becoming gown,
and made her apologies with much grace. Mr.
Bathurst took her into dinner, and the party sat
comfortably round a table, which being circular,
prevented anything like a tete-a-tete and is always
The lights and flowers and all else were a suc-
cess. Mrs. Butt outdid herself Political men are
not more insensible than their fellows to the charm
of an undeniable repast which they have well earned.
All went well at first, and Mr. Burhngton was
lulled into security. The waverers were evidently
much impressed by Mr. Bathurst's sallies. With a
gesture peculiar to himself, he dismissed objections,
and covered arguments with ridicule. Laughter
256 A Brilliant Woman.
became general, and the waverers laughed with him.
Most unfortunately Mrs. Bathurst spoke, and, though
she strengthened his hands and said what she had to say
wisely enough, it gave Maria the opening she wanted.
Turning to Mr. Bathurst, she began to repeat
the arguments she had cherished, and, with a
heightened colour and very brilliant and sparkling
eyes, she alluded to the one or two mistakes he
himself had committed; she forgot nothing, and
she covered her unfortunate husband with confusion
and the party with dismay.
" Where in the world did you pick up all this
nonsense ? " asked Cyril, vexed beyond expression.
" At Crabbrook Hall. "
Mr. Bathurst looked significantly at his wife.
The other men looked at each other. Cyril hardly
knew what to say — how explain it all.
" I can tell you a great many more things that
were done, " continued Maria in a tone of triumph,
quite delighted at have made a sensation.
Farther Mistakes. 257
"Perhaps you will kindly quote chapter and
verse at a more opportune moment, " said her
husband, and she was forced to take the hint, and
retire to the drawing-room with Mrs. Bathurst.
" I understood, Mrs. Burlington, that your husband
belonged to our party, " said Mrs. Bathurst, who
was simply furious at her husband's shortcomings
having been quoted to his face. " Of course, as
we are mistaken in his views, he cannot expect
any support from us, or any other others of our
Maria was quite surprised at this indignant voice.
She said, naively:
"Do you think these questions matter really?
They do to argue about. I can argue as well as
anyone, but I don't really care; do you mean to
say you do ? "
Mrs. Bathurst looked at her with unfeigned
amazement. " I suppose, if you have no political
principles, your husband at an}^ rate has some?"
VOL. I. 17
258 A Brilliant Woman.
" I really do not think he has, " said Maria, with
a brilliant smile. " I think he tries to interest
himself in it all, and I do not know why. He
speaks well, but I do not think he is really inter-
ested in politics ; and at home, to me he never says
one single word about them. He very much
dislikes political women ; he thinks them odious. "
"Indeed!'' said Mrs. Bathurst.
She took up a book and examined it closely.
Maria had made an enemy of her at one stroke.
A political woman! Of course, he had referred
to her. Mrs. Bathurst could joyfully at that moment
have smothered him and his wife at the same time.
Mr. Burlington by nature was not a patient man.
His wife's extraordinary outburst had filled him
with righteous anger. At every turn he felt con-
fronted by a force absolutely new to him ; and was
he to have his friends alienated, his life spoiled, by
her? What lay before him? How could he make
her see the havoc she was making; how, in short,
show her her mistakes ?
At the end of these bitter reflections came an-
other: what proof had she ever given him of that
affection for himself he had been assured was
2 6o A Brilliant Woman.
making her unhappy and robbing her of rest and
sleep? For Mrs. Kingson had laid on the colours
very thickly, knowing well that if she spoke at
all it must be strongly. Mr. Burlington was not
a man ready to suppose in the exaggeration or
untruth of anyone; and, with all the modesty of
a man who had lived apart from other men, he did
not see that there w^as any reason why any pres-
sure should have been used. When he had been
told in perfectly plain English that the girl loved
him he had felt grateful to her, and had regarded
her with much interest. He wanted to marry, and
he admired Maria for the possession of those quali-
ties he was himself deficient in. He was so con-
scious of deficiencies that he had counted her caring
for him as a great merit. So brilliant and hand-
some a girl ! His sense of his own deficiencies
had prevented his taking exception to the way in
which a painful story had been told him. It w^as
told so late that he could not draw back with
An Accident. 261
honour, and a natural indignation had been his
first impression. " I should have been told this ;
I ought to have known it before."
" We thought, of course, you knew it, being in the
neighbourhood. " Mrs. Kingson had said this with pained
surprise visible on her handsome face. Then she had
added, with emotion, "Will it make a difference?*'
He felt that, if it did, no one could blame him ;
but he had got accustomed to Maria and to her
ways; he admired her, and he said to himself that
he had perhaps outHved the age of romance. He
was also not destitute of that chivalrous feeling
that lies, happily, in the nature of most good men.
If she loved him now, one day when she came to
know how he had acted, would she not love him
still more? And he did not in the least believe
that secrets of any description could remain secrets
for all time. At any rate, he would shield her from all
disagreeables ; as his wife he would honestly care for
262 A Brilliant Woman.
It seemed strange now to look back and see
how mistaken he had been in his ideas. If the
affection existed, it was never shown ; his presence
or his absence seemed ahke a matter of indifference
to her. She had her own pursuits, and never
expected him to interest himself in what she was
doing, and she certainly never betrayed any inter-
est in his going or coming, or in any of his occu-
pations. They Avere drifting farther apart instead
of becoming more intimate.
He would have felt quite hopeless had it not
been for one circumstance which came to his me-
mory, and which caused him to think that he did
not altogether comprehend her. Riding together,
they had been delayed for a moment at one of the
lodges — one seldom used, as it led to the woods
only and to no public road. It was opposite one
of the lodge gates of Wyncote Hundred. Coming
hurriedly to open it, the young woman had a very
young baby held close to her bosom, and, imagin-
An Accident 263
ing as they passed that his wife said something,
he looked at her. She was very pale, and her
large dark eyes had tears in them ; he was sur-
prised, but in a moment she had given her horse its
head, and was going so swiftly up the avenue that
he could not see her face again ; and as she laughed
merrily at some antics going on between the dogs,
as he joined her at the front door, he fancied that
he must have been mistaken. And yet the impres-
sion returned to him, and gave him a vague hope.
If children were given to them, w^ould it not alter
her and soften her ?
It was, therefore, not so much as a stem judge
that he went to find his wife next day; it was more
as one anxious to argue kindly and convincingly
with her. But it was unfortunate for him and for
his present wishes that when he was grave he
looked decidedly stem, and his wife had grown to
dread this expression, and to resent it.
"May I ask you why you talked so much non-
264 A Brilliant Woman.
sense to Mr. Bathurst last night?" He sat down
by her work-table, and took up an ivory paper-
cutter as he spoke.
" You may ask anything you like, " she said, in
a tone which sounded indiiferent.
"Which means that you will not answer?*
" You are such a very clever man, no interpretation
is necessary. You read my thoughts so clearly."
"Maria," he said, trying to suppress his annoy-
ance, * you are my wife, and we should act to-
gether in all great questions. Why should you pain
and mortify me by quoting all that absurd non-
sense to the very people who would dislike and be
offended by those sentiments?"
"Cyril," she said slowly, *if you choose to mis-
understand me, you can do so. I am not a pup-
pet. I have a right to form my own opinions, and
to proclaim them. Why should I see everything
just as you see it? Why should I be silent, or
speak according to your orders?"
An Accident 265
" My wish for your silence is simply that, when
a woman talks on a subject she knows nothing
about, she puts herself in a very ridiculous posi-
" Mr. Bathurst thought me very amusing ; he did
not think me ridiculous."
" He covered his annoyance because he is a well-
bred man. I believe that in one way it will be a
greater disappointment to you than to me. But I
have had a note from him advising me to withdraw
from the election. He is quite satisfied that my
chances are nil."
Maria bit her lip. It was a disappointment to
her; but she would not say so.
"I suppose your chances were never very great,
and now Mr. Bathurst makes an excuse, and it gives
you another handle against me. I do not believe
I have anything to do with it."
It must be owned that this was trying.
"Of course," said her husband, "if you are quite
266 A Brilliani Woman.
determined not to see that you are in the wrong,
there is no use in continuing the argument."
Maria said nothing. She was very unhappy that
morning, and, without analysing her unhappiness,
she blamed her husband's wants of appreciation for it.
* There is one thing I want to say, Maria, and I
want you to take it to heart. You pride yourself
on your absolute truthfulness. Until now I have
given you credit for being perfectly truthful. Does
it not occur to you that in conveying a false impression
you are not being truthful ? "
** You conveyed a very false and, I may add, a
\^ery unfair impression about me — about my views —
*I gave my own, not yours."
** Do you suppose that those men believe that ?
Do you fancy they do not think that you adopt my
private convictions on political questions? You are
young, and wives, as a rule, do not parade differences
An Accident. ity
of opinion in public, and to their husbands' hurt.
And if it was the truth . . . but you know that
these questions never interest you ; you know nothing
about them; you care less. For the sake of making
a sensation, you quoted papers you had got hold of,
and, I repeat, you untruthfully and purposely gave
a false impression, and have stopped my political
" Do you care ? " asked his wife, looking up at him.
** You never give me the impression of really caring ;
that is what I never understand; it is all talk, and
to say brilliant things that sound well. It is quite
impossible that men should be in real earnest about
the trifles they spend hours in talking about?"
That feeling of complete hopelessness once more
came to Cyril Burlington. How was he to put things
before his wife to make her sensible of her folly?
Did she believe in no earnestness about anything?
Was she so superficial that she could not realise
any depth of conviction on any subject? He went
268 A Brilliant Woman.
slowly out of the room. Maria matched her silks,
and her fingers still handled them, but rather absently.
She had, according to him, done harm; but she
did not credit it. She always resented the way in
which he criticised and never approved her actions,
and she asked herself was this what she had mar-
ried for. She was very far from realising her dream
of occupying a sort of pedestal and being a central
power. All she did was put before her as something
she ought not to have done. It may be said that
from first to last her happiness, her influence, her
theories, alone occupied her. Her husband's happi-
ness, his wishes, his welfare, never for one single
second came into her mind.
She had married to carry out a plan of life towards
which end a husband was necessary, and she felt
aggrieved and injured because his influence was all
against her success. Was she to see all her hopes
extinguished because her husband failed to appre-
A/2 Accidoit. 269
He did not come in to luncheon, and, anxious
to do anything to dispel the uncomfortable feelings
she was possessed by, she ordered her horse,
requested to go alone, and, once mounted, went
swiftly across the gra.ss, delighting in the freshness of
her horse and the sense of absolute freedom once more.
The park surrounding Burlington House was well
laid out, and was spacious for the size of the pro-
perty. But Maria's mood was against every restric-
tion that day, and even the few miles which enclosed
it she felt a restriction. She rode up to the lodge
before mentioned, and passed into the woods beyond.
For some reason, only once or twice had she and
her husband ridden there, and now she determined
to explore them thoroughly. It would be breaking
new ground, as when she had been there before
they had used a short cut homewards, and never
gone far into the interior.
It was delightful riding on the soft ground,
treading upon a layer of last year's pine needles,
270 A Brilliant Woman.
and meeting no one. To her perturbed spirit the
solitude brought calm and peace. What a happy
thought it had been coming here to-day. The hasty
passing of the birds from bough to bough, the
sweet fragrant scents around her, the vistas here
and there of blue distances, and the murmur of the
faint west wind whispering its secrets to the topmost
branches, that rose more ambitiously than the others,
Almost for the first time a curious regret came
to her. Almost for the first time she asked herself
why she had missed love. It seemed so strange
to her that she should never have been in love
with anyone ; it was a want in her life, and at that
moment she regretted it deeply. " If I was the
least in love with Cyril, how much easier my life
would be ! " she said to herself; and then she laughed.
It seemed so odd that the thought should come to
her now for the very first time. She rode on over
some crackling twigs, reining in her horse — partly
An Accident. 271
because she wanted to think, partly because, as
usual in all those paths, there were many slippery
places— and she sent him along at a foot pace now.
She was lulled into security by the monotony of
her way, and was sitting rather carelessly holding
her reins, without any thought of possible catastrophe,
when a shot, fired apparently quite close to her,
startled her horse tremendously.
He plunged so violently that it was all she could
do to sit him, and, while trying to pat him and
quiet him, his hind legs slipped away under him,
and he fell throwing her clear, and at some little
distance, but, unfortunately, against a tree. She
felt as if many more shots had been fired close to
her eyes, and then she knew nothing more.
At a little distance, close to a turning-point in the
pathway, a man came running up at full speed in
great alarm. He put down his gun, and ran up to
her; looked round for water, which was not far off,
and bathed her forehead and eyes till she recovered.
272 ul Brillia7it Woman.
Maria was much stunned, and quite confused. She
hardly knew what had happened, or how she came there,
and her first conscious thought was about her horse.
* Your horse is close by, quite as much frightened
as you were. I am so sorry ! Only I did not, of
course, know that any one was there."
The voice was pleasant and refined, and as Maria
began to recover her faculties she saw that the
speaker was a gentleman, and one of the handsomest
men she had ever seen.
" What will you do ? " asked the stranger, anxiously.
" The house is perhaps a little far." He spoke
with great hesitation.
" May I ask who you are ? "
" O, one of the Wyncotes. I know you ; you
are young Mrs. Burlington. I was standing near
you after that meeting — a man was impertinent — I
felt inclined to knock him down."
"Did you?" Maria's faculties were still numb;
but she thought it very nice of this man to wish
An Accident. 273
to knock down another because of impertinence
directed towards herself.
" I must go home now, " she said, after a bit.
" I suppose you must, " he said, with regret in
his voice. " You are sure you are able to ride home ? "
" Quite sure, thank you very much ; you have
been very kind."
He mounted her well, and accompanied her a
little way. Then he turned round, held out his
hand and said good-bye, detaining her a moment
or two under pretence of arranging her habit, but
evidently anxious to say something he found
Then it came. Speaking with affected careless-
ness, he said. " We are on such distant terms with
Mr. Burlington — perhaps — I think it would be better
not to say you had met me Mrs. Burlington."
" Why ? " she asked, in great surprise.
" O, nothing an old awkwardness. Of course,
it is as you please."
VOL. I. 1 8
274 ^ Brilliant Woman.
He lifted his shooting cap, and turned away at
once. Maria, feeling much shaken, bruised, and
stiff all over, went home slowly. She had a very
real headache when she got home, and went to bed
at once. When Cyril came to see her, hearing that
she had had -an accident, she told him at once what
had happened without naming the man who had
helped her to recover.
"Have you any idea who he was?" asked Cyril,
a vague idea of reward passing through his mind.
"Yes; I asked his name. He was one of the
She saw her husband start, and in a moment or
two he left her to the repose she needed.
AUNT ANNE SPEAKS HER MIND.
Aunt Anne came up that evening and went to
see Maria, who was suffering a good deal, but who
made light of her sufferings. She was evidently
glad to see her visitor, who was always kind, and
who, being one of the few women in the world
able to overcome a prejudice, had come to see that,
with a great deal of absurdity and much that was
irritating, there lay a fund of goodness at heart,
and that Maria had some fine, even noble, qualities
if she only allowed them fair play.
Maria was too unwell to talk, but there was no
mistaking her appreciation of those acts of thought-
276 A Brilliant Woman.
fulness which added to her comfort, and which affec -
tion knows so exactly how to give.
The moving of the lights, the arrangements about
the small fire, which the chilly evenings made pleas-
ant; the bunch of fragrant roses brought from
her own garden, the kind and gentle hand on her
forehead, filled Mrs. Burlington with that sense of
being really cared for which is so indescribably
soothing in suffering.
Cyril looked so grave when Aunt Anne joined
him in the library that she was afraid his wife was
more severely hurt than she had believed; but he
soon undeceived her. It seemed hard while his
wife was lying ill to tell of the fiasco she had
caused, and he oifered no explanation, and did not
say a word to connect his wife with his disappoint-
ment. He was a little startled when Aunt Anne
used the very words his wife had done.
" Do you care ? " she asked, a little surprised at
a certain bitterness in his tone.
Au7it Anne speaks her Mind 2'j'j
He gave a short laugh.
" I suppose success is pleasant to us all. "
" I always imagined that being tied for a certain
number of months, and having to give up so much
time, would be quite contrary to your inclinations."
" And why, then, did I take it up ? "
* From a sense of duty, patriotism. I thought you
had been talked into it. "
" I have nothing else. I am not cut out for the
role of a married man. I married too late."
His voice was vibrating with some feeling he was
trying to master.
Aunt Anne was quite devoted to him, and his
words pained and surprised her. She did not hear
them unmoved, and she began to see that he was
unhappy beyond any anxiety about his wife.
But it has been well said that a sorrow^ even a
bitter grief, has more chance of dying if it has not
taken the form of words, even when uttered only
to one faithful friend. Her wish was to receive his
278 A Brillmnt Woman.
confidence and to try to put things right — and she
saw that he was longing to give her that confi-
dence — but her sense of right made her prevent it.
She turned quickly to the matter of the fall, and
asked where and how it had happened. Cyril -was
wounded at first. Was it possible 'hat he had lost
that close sympathy which had helped him all his
life? Then his integrity made him glad that, on
the subject of his wife, this should be the case.
Would not any confidence on that subject take the
form of a complaint? Regarding his wife's fall, it
was, of course, different, and here her sympathy
was ready, and her annoyance equal to his.
" It is fate ! Is it fate? " Cyril said, slowly, asserting
and questioning in one breath.
" It has come, but it had to come. After all, my
dearest Cyril, it may have no consequences."
Cyril looked incredulous. Aunt Anne did not
know his wife as well as he did. If she wished to
pursue the acquaintance, if her curiosity were aroused,
Aunt Anne speaks her Alind. 279
no words of his would prevent her from doing so.
Ah-eady he had seen an eagerness, an anxiety to
know why this nearest of all the neighbours was
the one who had never called, and why there was
no sort of intercourse with them.
All around them there seemed to be friendliness,
and yet she and Cyril never met these neighbours.
They were never present at any of the various entertain-
ments to which she was asked, and she heard of them
everywhere, generally by accident. One very remark-
able fact was the way in which, by common consent,
the subject was dropped whenever she was there.
Aunt Anne was looking very thoughtfully at the
fire, and then the result of her cogitation came out.
" I would tell her everything, Cyril. "
Cyril started. "You do not know her; it is quite
" I have studied your wife. I have grown to like
her; and I think she is being very unfairly used."
Cyril was so surprised by this sudden attack that
28o A Brilliant Woman.
he simply gazed at her in supreme astonishment. '
"You expect her to shut her eyes to what goes
on. You know you have done a very generous
thing. But she does not know it."
" And if she did know, she would hate me for
it, Aunt Anne. We may have been wrong, but I
was in the hands of others. Now it is too late ! "
Aunt Anne could say no more. She did, however,
reiterate her words, and she added a warning.
" She is in a false position, and it is unfair. If
one day she takes some step we may all regret — I
do not say she will, but if she does, can those who
kept her in ignorance be held blameless? Only her
affection for you may save her at such a time."
Cyril heard her quietly; but her words sounded
to him as mockery.
"Her affection for you." Each day convinced
him that she had no such affection. Mrs. Kingson
had very much to answer for.
END OF VOL. I.